Georgia vs Russia at the Beijing Olympics

On August 8th, while the Olympic teams were entering the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing at the opening ceremony of the XXIXth Olympic Games, Russian troops were entering Georgia, once a former Soviet Republic, now invaded by Russian Army, claiming they are acting as so called “peace-keepers”, like they always do. I will not write about this war aggression here, it has been said enough already, but if you want to find out what’s behind it all just read this article here: The Pipeline War. The did is certainly not in the spirits of the Olympics and I blame Russia for starting a war during the Olympic Games, when it supposed to be the other way around.

I would like to remind you the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 when Russian tanks invaded the streets of Budapest. After Russians bombed Hungary the national polo teams of Hungary and USSR met in Melbourne for a game which was later called “Blood in the Water match” or “Blood Bath”. The name was coined by the media after Hungarian player Ervin Zador emerged from the pool with blood pouring from under his eye after being punched by a Soviet player. That was a semifinal and Hungary won that game 4:0 taking the revenge in sports (they became Olympic champions back then), while Russians could not show a fair play even in sports. There was also a documentary about that event produced in 2006 by Quentin Tarantino and called “Freedom’s Fury“.

The Georgian Olympic team wanted to withdraw from the Olympics, but they decided to remain at the games and now the national Olympic teams of both countries will meat at the sports matches. The one I’m aware of is this one:

Meet the Beijing Olympic Mascots – FuWa’s

Fuwas - Olympic Mascots on the track of the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium It’s for the first time when instead of the usual one character for the Olympic mascot we’ve got a bunch of them. It seems that the Chinese want to impress with everything at these Olympic Games and they designed 5 cute characters to represent the 2008 Olympics. The designer of the 2008 Olympic mascots is a famous Chinese artist – Han Meilin who done a great job, but was really unsatisfied by the control from the authorities and their requests of how the mascots should look and what should represent, he even had two heart attacks while designing them. Recently Han Meilin offered an interview, you can check this article on WSJ about what he had to say and other facts about Fuwa’s. Basically Fuwa’s (福娃), literally mean “good luck dolls” and were sometimes referred to as friendlies. Actually they thought of calling them friendlies first, but then it was decided it can be easily misinterpreted.

Girl inside the Olympic mascot
I’ve seen the fuwa’s so many times already, in print, souvenirs, on TV, art-crafts – you name it. But I start liking them when I saw the mascots at the National Olympic Stadium, live sort of speaking.

Read moreMeet the Beijing Olympic Mascots – FuWa’s

Plan and seats of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing

I wrote a review about the Olympic Stadium in Beijing some time ago and noticed that people also find this article when looking for the Beijing Olympic Stadium plan or trying to get a look at the Olympic Stadium seats. Since there’s no actual plan of the stadium presented in my previous review and there were just pictures of the VIP seats I decided to write another article and show you what you’re looking for.

Seats at the National Olympic Stadium in Beijing
These are the seats from Herzog & de Meuron’s iconic creation in Beijing, red and white colored with respectively white and red big numbers written in the upper right corner of every seat. There are significantly more red chairs on the first level and the white seats appear to be placed aleatory. There are more white seats on the second floor, but still red is the dominant color. And the third level is composed of mostly white chairs already. The seats are very comfortable made of some kind of plastic polymer and every seats has a hole underneath, I’ll let you imagine yourself what is it for!

1st floor of the National Olympic Stadium in Beijing
The Olympic Stadium has three levels or floors as you probably noticed with the biggest one being first two and the third being a smaller addition. There are 12 public entrances to the stadium each marked with a letter (from A to M). The stadium has large public spaces inside and it is very easy to get anywhere you want. There are also aisles numbers assigned for each entrance letter, from 101 to 156 on first floor and 201 to 256 respectively. The seat numbers are easy to spot and another thing that I liked is that when getting to your aisle you will not have to wonder which side to take as both sides will be your aisle, but divided into two by seat numbers (e.g.: till 10 and after 10). No need to worry if you get lost, there are volunteer assistants willing to help at every aisle, so just ask.

Read morePlan and seats of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing

New 10 RMB banknote to commemorate the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Exactly one month before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games the People’s Bank of China issues a commemorative 10 RMB bill. It features the newly built already iconic image of the National Stadium known as the Bird’s Nest on the front and the ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower “Discobolus” on the back.

Olympic commemorative 10 RMB notes
Since the commemorative banknote was issued in only 6 million copies it seems that the whole country rushed since morning to Bank of China branches to get their own copy because of a one banknote per customer policy. Immediately after the sale much higher prices for the 10 yuan Chinese banknote were reported, soaring as high as 1000 RMB per banknote! I personally heard of banknotes being sold forty times the initial price at 400 yuan, but I still think it’s too much. It’s probably just the initial rush, but I might be wrong of course. 6,000,000 banknotes for 1,321,851,888 people (2007 est.) makes about 1 banknote per every 220 people… seems enough!

But what all the western media sees is

Read moreNew 10 RMB banknote to commemorate the 2008 Beijing Olympics

My neighborhood getting ready for the Olympics!

One World - One DreamBeijing is getting ready for the 2008 Olympics and the atmosphere of the Olympic Games approaching is everywhere. Even in my quiet neighborhood now you can see the red banners welcoming the games. It is quite funny actually, because they also translated the banners into English in an attempt to share the moment with laowai‘s also, but as usual it sounds Chinglish.

I’ve made a few pictures of the banners from my neighborhood in

Read moreMy neighborhood getting ready for the Olympics!

Beijing National Olympic Stadium (Bird’s Nest) Review

Me and Bird??s Nest - night view Almost 2 weeks ago I had a chance to visit the newly built pride and beauty of the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics – Beijing National Stadium (??京?家???), also known as “Bird’s Nest” (鳥巢) during the hosting of “Good Luck Beijing 2008 SOHU.COM China Athletics Open”. It was a kind of audition before the Olympic Games and I would allow myself to make a short unprofessional review or better just call it impressions I got.

The stadium looks amazing from both inside and outside and it is definitely one of the most spectacular architectural constructions I ever seen. It has become already an iconic image for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and souvenirs representing the stadium are already sold out in the streets. Surely the architects Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog have done a great job when designing this beauty that does look like a bird’s nest actually. And I’m glad that Chinese officials have chosen this plan among other projects presented, although there was one plan (B12) with a unique suspending retractable roof which was worth a second thought. The stadium was open in March 2008, but some final constructions and surrounding area preparations are still being done. You’ll notice in the pictures below the elevator steps of the new Olympic subway line with the “Bird’s Nest” in the background, some workers completing final touches, one of the bronze sculptures displayed at the Olympic Green and improvised hand-written directions sign directing visitors to Beijing National Stadium.

Subway line exit and Bird Workers at the Beijing National Stadium Sculptures at the Olympic Green ??Bird

Interesting facts: The stadium construction costs rises to 4 billion RMB which is around 500 million USD and the stadium was built mostly on money which came from donations. The ground was broken on Christmas Eve in December 2003 and it took 4 years to complete the project. It was built with 36 km of unwrapped steel, with a combined weight of 45,000 tonnes. 10 workers had died during the stadium’s construction.

Inside the ??Bird
The arena looks awesome from the inside and it is here where you can actually feel the grandeur of this superb construction. It is just huge and despite the fact that is can host 91.000 people it doesn’t feel crowded. The halls inside are large and there are enough entrances/exits to avoid overcrowding, also they opted for more smaller access gates to the seats rather then bigger ones. Overall I got a positive impression, but there are still some things that need to be done, like hiding these awful metallic bars with cable ties and electric/sound cables on the edge of second floor tribune (see the pictures below) or seriously review the menu for the snacks booths inside the stadium (you can also view the menu in the picture below). The only appealing thing for westerners from this menu was “hot-dogs” (which by the way are nothing like the hot-dogs you know), but it was missing from all the booths I asked while there, never minding the unclear price. Prices were actually unexpectedly low, which is a great thing, hope it stays the same during the Olympics (although I doubt that). They were also selling cold beer in cans on the stadium from “Yanjing” (the best Chinese beer if you ask me) for just 5 RMB and drinking tap water is available from many places (see the picture below). The VIP seats located in between second and third floor tribunes are wrapped in soft fabrics and they are still putting it in on all the seats (picture below).

Bird??s Nest Bird??s Nest National Stadium Snacks and drinks at the Beijing National Stadium VIP seats at Beijing National Stadium

Volunteer staffThe staff working on the stadium, mostly volunteers I suppose, are all young and eager to help you and speak a good English, well organized as well. The girl in the picture here is standing in the lane between the raws and will direct and assist the visitors, also monitoring the things that happened around.

The atmosphere on the stadium was great and the Chinese public presented there during “Good Luck Beijing 2008 China Athletics Open” was very welcoming and excited about the event. All the Chinese people I think are very glad about them being the hosts of such an event and want to show the best they have.

5000m Men??s Final

For more quality and high-resolution pictures of the Beijing National Stadium during day and night, from inside and outside please visit my Beijing Olympics related photographs presented on Alamy. They are licensed for Editorial use only but you can also enjoy viewing them as well.

UPDATE: Since many of you were looking for the stadium plan I also wrote another article on Olympic Stadium seats and plan.

Pregătirile pentru Jocurile Olimpice de vară 2008 în Beijing

Pregătirile pentru jocurile Olimpice de vară 2008 în Beijing.

Beijing-ul va fi gazda jocurilor Olimpice de vară ce sunt programate pentru perioada 8-24 august 2008. Data începerii jocurilor olimpice nu este aleatoare, ci a fost în mod special selectată de chinezi ca fiind o dată foarte norocoasă – ziua 08, luna 08, anul 2008. Chinezii sunt destul de superstiţioşi, îndeosebi atunci când vine vorba de cifre, unele fiind considerate norocoase, altele mai puţin norocoase şi altele foarte norocoase. Cifra opt e considerată cea mai norocoasă, numerele de telefon de exemplu ce conţin cifra opt sunt cele mai dorite, la fel şi numerele de înmatriculare pentru maşini, etc., chiar şi preţurile în meniurile restaurantelor deobicei sunt 8, 18, 28, 88 Y. Cred că nu mai e de mirare pentru nimeni că ceremonia de deschidere a jocurilor olimpice e programată pentru ora 08:08:08 PM, data 08-08-08.

Acum câteva zile în urmă am asistat la numărătoare inversă pentru începerea jocurilor olimpice din piaţa Tian-An-Men ce comemora 100 zile până la deschiderea oficială. De ani de zile deja în inima capitalei chineze e instalat un panou digital gigantic setat să afişeze timpul rămas până la începerea jocurilor XXIX olimpice de vară. Mii de persoane s-au adunat pentru acest eveniment în interiorul “Palatului Interzis” unde a fost instalată o scenă de concert şi alte câteva sute, în majoritate tineret foarte entuziasmat, au participat la numărătoarea inversă din piaţa principală – Tian-An-Men. Unii, precum un grup de ciclişti din Hangzhou, au parcurs o distanţă de mii de kilometri timp de 5 zile pentru a ajunge aici, alţii şi-au pictat feţele în drapel naţoinal, iar alţii au venit să aplaude şi să ureze succes fluturând drapelurile olimpice.

Nu mulţi însă din cei prezenţi în piaţă vor avea posibilitatea să fie în Beijing în timpul olimpiadei. Este pentru prima oară când jocurile vor fi pertecute în China şi mai nu toţi doresc să fie aici şi să asiste la jocurile olimpice. Este imposibil însă, doritori numai din China sunt peste un miliard şi doar 7 milioane bilete în vânzare. Apropo, acum câteva zile în urmă au fost puse în vânzare restul biletelor (a treia şi ultima etapă) care au fost epuizate a doua zi după punerea în vânzare. Deaceea, dacă nu aţi reuţit să procuraţi bilete – staţi acasă şi vizionaţi la tv. S-ar putea însă să găsiţi bilete în vânzare de la particulari pe internet, dar preţurile fiind foarte piperate. Apropo de preţuri, să nu cumva credeţi că va fi ieftin: preţurile în Beijing pe parcursul anului trecut au crescut în continuu dublânduse pentru unele produse iar preţurile la hoteluri pentru perioada olimpică vor creşte nu mai mult nu mai puţin decât zece ori! Multe se face şi pentru a face ca populaţia urbană locală ce nu va participa în nici un fel la jocuri să plece pentru această perioadă din Beijing. Studenţii şi elevii din alte provincii, lucrătorii migranţi şi toţi cei fără ocupaţie vor fi nevoiţi să plece. La fel vor fi închise şi toate întreprinderile industriale, iar lucrătorii trimişi în vacanţă forţată în afara capitalei.

Multe se fac şi pentru ca oraşul să respire un aer mai curat pe timp de olimpiadă. Pe parcursul ultimilor ani a fost schimbat complet parcul de autobuze cu modele performante cu un nivel scăzut de poluare a atmosferei. Pe parcursul desfăşurării olimpiadei accesul şi circulaţia pe străzi a maşinilor va fi în dependenţă de placa de înmatriculare – număr par pentru zile anumite şi impare pentru celelalte. Pentru a degaja traficul se propune ca accesul către locurile de desfăşurare a jocurilor să fie permis doar transportului public. Absolut toţi taximetriştii au fost obligaţi să meargă la cursuri de engleză şi acum te salută cu un “Hello”, apropo fumatul în taxi-uri tot a fost interzis. Două linii noii de metrou se vor deschide în ajunul olimpiadei (una lansată deja) şi două linii speciale de metrou – pentru terminalul 3 a aeroportului (Aeroportul din Beijing devinind astfel cel mai mare aeroport din lume) şi pentru regiunea olimpică unde sunt concentrate principalele arene sportive, regiune supranumită “Verde olimpică”, pentru că e un park de fapt.

În total 31 arene sportive vor fi deschise în Beijing pentru olimpiadă, dar inima competiţiilor şi arena principală unde se vor petrece ceremoniile de deschidere şi închidere a jocurilor este stadionul naţional numit “Cuibul Păsării” (Bird’s Nest” (鳥巢巢 ). Denumirea este datorată formei şi design-ului neobişnuit ce arată cu un cuib. Arhitecţii principali sunt Herzog & de Meuron, a costat în jur de $500.000.000 şi are capacitatea de 91.000 spectatori. A fost deschis oficial în martie iar prima competitie a fost desfăşurată pe 1 mai, dar lucrarile mai durează. Mii de oameni vizitează zilnic acest stadion numai pentru a se fotografia în faţa acestuia, agenţiile turistice au inclus stadionul în programele sale, iar prin împrejurimi comercianţii vând deja suvenire reprezentând “Cuibul Olimpic”. Numai că pentru că lucrările mai durează, toate acestea se pot observa numai de după gard, care înconjoară stadionul. Pentru doritorii de a vedea stadionul din interior mai există o şansă totuşi, în perioada 22-25 mai stadionul va fi gazda competiţiilor atletice întitulate “Noroc Beijing” şi este unicul eveniment programat până la deschiderea jocurilor olimpice.

În imediata apropiere a cuibului olimpic se află o construcţie la fel de originală a centrului naţional acvatic (北京国家游泳中心 ) supranumit “Cubul de apă” (水立方 ) sau cum se mai abreviază – H2O . Este o structură din oţel de forma unei cutii albastre gigantice acoperită cu mii de membrane în formă de baloane de culoarea apei. Arată spectaculos şi ziua şi mai ales pe timp de noapte când este iluminat din interior. La construcţia acestui edeficiu au fost folosite materiale şi tehnologii performante ce permit penetrarea mai bună a luminii solare şi scăderea cu 30% a energiei folosite, precum şi un sistem de filtrare şi reciclare a apei pentru bazin. Capaciatea “cubului de apă” olimpic e de 17.000 persoane şi este un proiect a unui consorţiu Sino-Australian.

Mascota jocurilor olimpice din acest an este de fapt un set numit FuWa (în traducere – păpuşi norocoase) compus din 5 păpuşi reprezentând 5 elemente a filosofiei chineze: apă, metal, foc, lemn şi pământ. Fiecare păpuşă “Fuwa” are o culoare de bază corespunzătoare cercurilor olimpice şi se numesc Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini. Dacă e să folosim doar primele silabe din numele fiecărei păpuşi, obţinem fraza: “BeiJing HuanYíng Nĭ” ce în traducere înseamnă “Beijingul vă urează bun venit”.

Flacăra olimpică pentru jocurile din acest an e tot una specială – acoperă cea mai lungă distanţă parcursă vreodată – 137.000 km şi a început pe 24 martie în Olimpia ajungând în Beijing de unde a urmat traseul în 20 de ţări şi 5 continente ca să ajungă înapoi în China unde urmează un releu prin toată ţara, în fiecare provincie şi oraş mare. Flacăra olimpică va fi purtată în total de 21.880 persoane. În perioada 19-21 mai, zile declarate de doliu în China, releul flăcării olimpice a fost întrerupt pentru a comemora victimele recenului cutremur care a facut peste 42.000 victime.

Olimpiada din acest mai e asociată şi cu manifestaţiile de protest pentru independenţa Tibetului, cu respectarea drepturilor omului în China şi alte chestiuni care contrastează cu atmosfera de eforie olimpică. Sper ca toată lumea până la urmă să se bucure de acest eveniment sportiv principal şi succese tuturor! “O singură lume – un singur vis” (同一个世界 同一个梦想 ) e sloganul jocurile olimpice de vară din Beijing 2008.

Olympic flames reach the top of the world!

I wake up this morning and as usually turn on the TV for the latest sweet news from CCTV9, only to find out that Olympic flames reached the summit at around 9:10 (our local time). Well done China! And my respect to the climbing team.

From Mt. Olympus to Mt. Everest the Olympic torch went, and we humans still fighting. Hope one day the world peace will not be just a dream. “One World – One Dream” – the slogan for the Beijing Olympics reads.

Me at Everest Base Camp

I happened to reach Mt.Everest Base Camp some time ago and just found the picture of myself, Mt.Everest and my flag.

For complete story check out The Official Beijing Olympics Web-site and some pictures here. 92 days to go!

100-Day Countdown to the Olympics

100-Day Countdown to the Olympics in Tian An Men square

Beijing and the whole China celebrates the 100-Day countdown to the Summer Olympic Games just before the May holidays. Some big manifestations were held around China with the main venue being Forbidden City and the Tian An Men square where for years already the main digital countdown display is located. I just happened to be passing by when the countdown display was showing exactly 100-Day left and I must say that the atmosphere in Tian An Men was so great and inspiring. Hundreds of locals with small Chinese and Olympic flags gathered to cheer and countdown. Youths with faces painted in Chinese flag were probably the most excited, but I wonder how many of them will actually be allowed to stay in Beijing during the Olympics, since the plan is to get them all out of the city during summer unless they are working or volunteering for Olympics.

And how ready is actually Beijing for the Olympics? Well, if you watch CCTV9 – it all looks bright and awesome. But frankly I was expecting too see more things done already. Yes, you no longer see people spitting in the subway, but it still looks like some places haven’t been cleaned for months. Even the new subway lines look dirty, that is probably why they haven’t changed all the trains to new ones and haven’t opened the tourniquets yet, keeping them wrapped in plastic instead. Air pollution and congested road traffic still remains one of the biggest concerns, although most of the taxi drivers will understand English now. The city of course has changed tremendously during the past years to the better and there are still 100 days left, which seems like enough time to get done all these final touches that counts.

And here is the countdown display as I seen it during the years, 1044 days left, 399 days left and 99 days left (well, almost a hundred):

Digital countdown display for the Olympics during the years