we had a hard time getting tickets to events and refused to pay ridiculous scalpers’ prices, but we did get to the Bird’s Nest (the brand new National Olympic Stadium) for track and field.
We got 6 tickets, not together, and left the little kids at home. After our long vacation, I knew they couldn’t hang. All they wanted was to be home with Camila and play. Camila told her mom that she didn’t want to go because “I’m young and I’ll probably get another chance to go to the olympics, and you won’t, so you should go mama.” They turned on TV and looked for us in the stands!
A big rainstorm hit that morning, but knowing it would be hot, we didn’t wear layers. Some of us wore sports jerseys. Nobody brought an umbrella. We took the subway to the Olympic Green, as cars were not allowed near the stadiums. I don’t take the subway much in Beijing, especially during rush hour, and you can probably imagine how intense it was. The mass of people all got off and slowly shuffled as one through an endless tunnel and up a long long flight of stairs to the street. Once at our stop, we paused along with others too tentative to brave the torrential rain to walk 1/3 mile or so to the stadium. A lot of peole went to work or school. Scalpers approached, slyly and silently holding up real or counterfeit tickets, who knows.
At the midway point through our slog, an enterprising old saviour sold us some ponchos and umbrellas. A hundred meters from the stadium at entry point #1, they were giving them away. The bird’s nest, a tangle of steel beams against the cloudy morning sky, stunned me. I’ve never seen so many shades of gray. The atmosphere was dark and ominous, and a perfect backdrop to the severe shadows and angles of the stadium. Beijing’s flat, gray, monumental horizon thrillingly filled my periphery.
The ebulliant stadium workers made the security process joyful and sweet. Everybody was so happy. We found our (covered) seats inside and shared a moment freaking out on the energy, the incredible vibes, excitement and good fortune of being at the olympics. Anyone who loves sports knows the difference seeing action live. The sounds, the crowd, the food.
Oh yes, the food! Not being a huge spectator sport culture, Beijing naturally does concessions “differently” then in the USA. It was 9am, so beer was out of the question for us although there were 3 diffent kinds to choose from and CHEAP. No coffee, since Chinese don’t drink it. No tea either. No hot drinks at all. Okay, we went with coke, since it probably has more caffeine then a bottle of sweet, iced green tea. Hot dogs came roasted on sticks, cool. Kind of missed the bun but no biggie. Candy popcorn, totally yummy for breakfast with coke (not). And a Chinese pastry, which was gross, especially with a bag of meat-flavored potato chips. And that was that, we sampled ALL the offerings of the National Stadium Concessions! But at least it was cheap. And I will never enjoy people elbowing their way to the front of lines, espcially for food when I’m hungry.
The women long distance walkers finished inside the stadium to much fanfare. We were surprised at how tiny the winner is. High jumping women leaped around like Tiggers in brightly colored spandex. The rain didn’t faze them. The men javelin throwers chucked their spears from one end of the stadium to the next, and as part of the decathalon, they sprinted and long jumped too. I’m always so fascinated to see athletes move around with the natural grace and ease of wind through trees. We were right behind the lady high jumpers and it was fun to see each one go through her warm-up rituals. I could see that many were playing out achievement in their minds, some just soothing nerves, others convening with coaches for up to the minute advice.
The Chinese didn’t succeed much in the athletics games, and their star was injured, but the crowd roared with gusto at every little Chinese athlete’s movement, from tying shoes to jumping off the mat. The Chinese fans dominated the scene. I thought that the spectators would be very multi-national, but foreigners were clearly the minority. I didn’t see any other USA fans. But it was nice that regular peeps could get tickets, including an old couple sitting behind me, eager to practice English, learn where we were from, and eat the food they smuggled into the stands. Ah, wisdom.
After taking a bazillion pictures inside the stadium when the events ended, we went out to the Olympic Green, a huge plaza area in between various venues. It felt like being inside the gates of heaven, everybody so blissed out in a state of harmony, peace, reverence and luck. The battle of women’s beach volleyball raged on the world’s largest TV, people trickled in and out of the Water Cube and other indoor stadiums, and the torch burned against the cloudy sky. We left the party behind for some good old fashioned Chinese food.
The Olympic experience didn’t quite end there, because a miracle, fantasy, prayer, vision was manifested through Uncle Forest’s good Guanxi (personal connections). Will and Emilio got to go to the Basketball semi-final double header and see the Redemtion Team live against Argenitina, and Spain vs. Latvia.
One World, One Dream. For weeks we had been singing the ballad “Beijing Huan Ying Ni” (Beijing welcomes you). Our family has gone home, we’re back to work, back to school, and now the olympics are over. What’s next?