Just got an email from blogger extraordinaire, Ben Ross that does a nice job encapsulating what is going on in Beijing these days after I secured Ben’s permission to post that email so here goes:
Just wanted to give everybody a quick update from Beijing. For starters, this has probably been the most enjoyable week I have ever spent in the Chinese capital. The Olympics are in full swing, and though I never thought I’d say this, I hope they never end. I’ve been spending much of the past week enjoying clean air, drinking cheap beer, and watching world class athletes compete for the price of upper-deck Royals tickets.
As I’m sure you have probably heard, starting July 20 the local government closed most factories around the outskirts of Beijing. They also implemented a new system where private cars could only drive every other day, based on their license plate numbers. The impact of the traffic regulations were immediate. (Chicago could really use a rule like this as well). Roads which were otherwise jam packed, suddenly allowed traffic to flow freely, turning potentially hour long cab rides into quick fifteen minute trips. To even further facilitate transit, multiple new subway lines have begun operation as well.
As for Beijing’s air, which seems to get more publicity than the games themselves, the effects were not so sudden. In fact, up until the first day or two of the Olympics, Beijing was still covered in a layer of smog, albeit a somewhat thinner layer of smog. On the third day of the games, we got torrential downpour which lasted about three days. Since the rain cleared up, skies have been clear and blue, and the weather has been in the 80’s with no humidity. It feels like Colorado in the summertime!
As for the games themselves, originally I figured I’d only be able to check out one or two events if any at all, and probably have to pay through the nose for my tickets. Tickets have been sold out for months, and scalpers can be seen around town selling them for hundreds of dollars. On the first day of the games, a friend of mine from California, who is a martial arts aficionado and was visiting Beijing for the weekend, wanted to see the Judo competition. Not having tickets, and not knowing where to get them, we decided to go to the venue anyway. We waited outside the gate for around fifteen minutes before we were able to purchase face value tickets from some Americans who had 2 extras.
The cost:7 bucks each.
Seeing how easy it was to get tickets to judo, I have been employing this strategy at various other events. Basically, I have just been choosing a random event every day, going to the venue half an hour before it starts, and standing around until I find somebody with an extra ticket to sell. So far I have been able to see at least one event every day, all for face value. Tickets range from around $4 (USD) to $20, and with the dirt cheap concessions (they sell beers for 70 cents!) this Olympics has turned into the biggest bargain entertainment I have ever experienced. So far I have seen, boxing, handball, soccer, basketball (no US), water polo, judo, beach volleyball (twice) and baseball (twice), drank heavily at most events and still probably haven’t spent more than $100 USD. There is never going to be another Olympics this affordable ever…unless they decide to have it in Myanmar at some point.
Other than sports, the atmosphere in Beijing is incredible. There are people here from all over the world, and the locals are all incredibly fired up as well. Part of the reason everything is so cheap is because events are all staffed by an army of college student “volunteers.” From information booths, to ticket takers, to the girl who throws new water polo balls into the pool, all of the legwork has been handled by these volunteers. Senior citizens are in on the volunteer action as well. However, most of them are stationed in random areas where they just sit around and read the newspaper all day. China has never really had a labor shortage.
I hope everybody is doing alright and enjoying the Olympics on TV.