Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beijing Olympics and Beyond

As the Beijing Olympics wind down, Beijing and its people feel sad that the games are over, athletes are leaving, and the closing ceremony is tonight. TV moderators keep saying they wish the games would continue, and people on the streets wish they could see more live coverage of the games. Before I came to Beijing in July, friends told me everyone in Beijing couldn’t wait until the Beijing Olympics ended. Now the same friends tell me how much they enjoy the games and how they're impressed with everything from the Bird's Nest to the Water Cube to each game they have watched. They worry they'll never enjoy such a big festival in Beijing again!

I also met some American athletes at the U.S. House and chatted with them about their experiences in Beijing. Shaun Jordan, a member of the U.S. relay teams in the 1988 and 1992 USA Olympic Swim Teams, told me he's been to all the summer Olympics since 1988 except the Sydney 2000 games, and he thinks the Beijing Olympics are the most impressive. When I asked him why, he said, “Your people are the most friendly people I have ever met." I was almost in tears when I heard that and asked him why he thought so. He said that wherever he goes, people are so nice, helpful, and open to him. He even sat down with an old Chinese lady at a Siheyuan (traditional square yard in Beijing) and had tea and chatted with her. Shaun is also very impressed with the architecture in Beijing. He said he'd never seen a city with such ancient architecture like the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven on one side and contemporary architecture like the Bird's Nest, Water Cube, and CCTV on the other side. He also appreciated the organization of the games, which created a smooth experience for athletes and spectators alike. Shaun loves Beijing so much that he extended his stay for two days.

Tiffany Scott, a figure skater who competed at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, came to Beijing on a study program during the Olympics. She loved Beijing so much when she came to compete and always wanted to come back. She and her classmates have been in Beijing for about a month to learn about Chinese culture and Chinese sports, particularly women athletes. While studying at the university, they also attended various games and toured Beijing. Tiffany said she loves Chinese culture and has learned lots about it this time. She enjoyed all the sightseeing and great shopping in Beijing! I also met a few more athletes who told me how much they and their families enjoy Beijing. They all wish they could stay longer or come back soon!

I just read an article about the Beijing Olympics at the New York Times. While the author mentioned the same friendliness and good organization, there are (as expected) words criticizing the Chinese government and people. Maybe the author has not seen Chinese’ spontaneous celebrations, but it doesn’t mean that the government controls people's celebrating or that Chinese don’t want to celebrate. In the stadiums, you do see all Chinese cheering for athletes--not only Chinese athletes, to whom they do shout louder, but all athletes. They wave different national flags, and stand up when people wave just like in any American stadium. At the beach volleyball games, many Chinese sing and dance just like the spectators from Brazil! Chinese may not always shout as loud or celebrate as spontaneously as some foreign visitors, but this simply reflects the Chinese mentality. We are just not the kind of people who shout and celebrate spontaneously as Westerners do! Hope you can respect this just like we respect your manner of celebrating!

I don't know if you've read about Beijing's skies lately, but today Beijing has sunny blue skies since August 15th. The closing ceremony will be held on a beautiful day that will make the Bird's Nest even more beautiful and impressive. We are sad that we have to say goodbye to the Beijing Olympics and see the Olympic flame go down, but the Olympic spirit and Beijing Olympics will be in our memory forever.



Anonymous said...

We too are very sad to see the Olympics end. We viewed them from our home in Michigan and loved every minute. When the last of the fireworks went dark at the end of the closing ceremony we all were silent and then our daughter said "I wish they lasted forever." Our daughter saw her birth country absolutely shine in the international spotlight both as hosts and as athletes. She saw sites she recognized from our homeland tour and new sites she wants to see on our next tour. The opening/closing ceremonies highlighted ancient and modern Chinese cultures beautifully. China is not a perfect country, but neither is the United States where we live. The Olympics gave our daughter and our family/friends a chance to see aspects of China that we don't normally have a chance to see on American TV. It was wonderful. China and its people created an incredible Olympics and shared their culture with the world. I wish this Olympic spirit could last forever.

Anonymous said...

I don't recognize Beijing with all the cars and new modern buildings, but I am proud of the changes I've seen. The Beijing has grown up into an exciting modern city with a wonderful respect for it's long historical past. I loved sharing hte images with my daughters and now they are even more excited to take a trip there some day and are anxious for their language studies to start up again this school year.

Congratulations China!

Kim R. Massie said...

Well, this is the 2nd time I've "sent". Let's see what happens this time:
I recently e-mailed a message thanking you for your insider's view on the Olympics. My China-born daughter and I have loved watching the events and seeing more of the beautiful sights and people of China. I spent 2 1/2 weeks in China in 2006/2007 and didn't want to leave. I can attest that the people are so friendly, kind, and helpful. I am looking forward to another trip to China!