Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's life like in Beijing now

I don't think any Beijingers ever expected the exciting Beijing 2008 Olympic Games would make their daily lives so inconvenient. Like me, all of my friends in Beijing were so thrilled to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the excitment ended last April. Now when I talked to my friends there, it seems they just can't wait until the Games are over.

I mentioned the frustrating traffic control issues during the Games in my last post. But some those restrictions actually started in late June. Only a limited number of trucks are allowed in Beijing. Starting July 20th, the cars with odd-numbered plates can be on the road only on dates with odd numbers, and vice-versa for even numbers. What does this mean? Residents have limited choices for their daily basic needs. I was told they either can't buy the vegetables they once bought or the produce became too expensive. Areas surrounding the national stadium are blocked and only authorized cars are allowed there, including the area of my father's apartment about a half-mile from the stadium. I'm curious to see what things look like when I return in two weeks.

What do all these restrictions mean for businesses? One supplier told me business is so bad she's never experienced such a slow summer before, as very few tourists are in China now due to strict visa application processes. Some publishers tell me they'll close their offices in about two weeks until the Games end, which means we might not be able to get many books we need for our customers. Our forwarder has increased prices more than four times for picking up goods and delivering them to the port in Tianjin. Shall I ship the goods we need anyway? Shall I increase prices, too? Now I must calculate really carefully to see what we need most urgently. I thought it would end August 25, when the closing ceremony is over. But no, all these restrictions will remain until September 30 when the Paralympics are over! I don't think we can afford to wait that long.

Now you know why Beijingers can't wait until the Games are over. I don't know if residents in London (2012 Olympic Games) and Chicago applying for 2016 Olympic Games) will have the same experiences as residents in Beijing. I hope not. But if so, I doubt they'll find this aspect of the Olympics very exciting.