Published: March 13th 2008March 9th 2008
Beijing, China had been trying to host the Olympic games for many years and when the IOC finally awarded them to the city, the entire country became intent to showcase the new China to the World. The same will and pride that inspired building the awesome Great Wall and the magnificent Forbidden City are now driving the construction of the most spectacular sports venues that the World has ever seen. And as it was the case before in Chinese history, the cost of building them now is not an issue!
I have concentrated so much on visiting historical sites around Beijing that I had not paid too much attention to the sites that are becoming the modern “descendants” of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Perhaps the purpose of these new architectural wonders will be different, but their magnificence is there for all to see.
That said, completing the construction of sports venues prior to Olympic games always becomes the major concern of any city that gets selected as host city for the Games. As the immovable date approaches, the work always gets more frantic but it is typically completed just in the nick of time.
Men at Work
Only one of about six thousand active construction sites in Beijing these days..
worked for five Olympic games in the past has given me more than my share of experience with the Olympic experience. I find it now even more interesting to observe the progress of the work to prepare for these Games without having to worry about being ready for them or not.
I had passed by Bird’s Nest a few times riding on the Fourth Ring highway. The first time that I saw this magnificent stadium, I was returning from one of my long trips outside of Beijing and after several hours on the road, the experience was like seeing a vision from another world in the midst of the city… It’s design is almost surreal and challenges the greatness of other recent Olympic stadiums… So, let the World admire the most advanced (and costly) stadium ever built!
Now, visiting Olympic venues that are not yet finished is easier said than done, especially in China. When a taxi driver took me to the site of Bird’s Nest, he literally took me to the construction workers’ entrance but unless you have official business inside, the most you can do is to stay behind the gate and try to snap some
shots from that position. But this spot was hardly a good vantage point to appreciate the stadium, much less to take pictures of it. In spite of that small detail, many Chinese citizens (and even some foreigners) were taking photos of each other in front of the gate and the unimpressed guards behind it.
I started to walk north flanking what will eventually be the new stadium’s grounds, but at this point a temporary high fence obstructed all view of the area. A few buildings along the way also further obstructed the view and the more I walked in that direction, the possibilities of finding an elevated spot to take a decent picture were getting smaller.
Eventually I ran into, and turned west on Kehui Xilu road that runs parallel to the Fourth Ring and would allow me to eventually turn back south on Beichen Xilu and approach the Water Cube or (H2O)3 venue that will be the site for all the aquatic events during the Beijing Games. As I neared the Fourth Ring highway, the Water Cube became visible (provided that you could find a hole on the high fence or find something to climb on to
Bird's Nest Side View
You just have to find a high place to clear the fence obstructing the view!
be able to clear it altogether).
Once I reached the Fourth Ring highway, there was an elevated pedestrian overpass over it that would have had a good vantage point over Water Cube and Bird’s Nest if it were not for the reduced visibility caused by air pollution. Many people were there snapping pictures of their families, friends or significant others with the faded venues in the background.
The best spot for my pictures was actually a highway overpass feeding into the Fourth Ring that had a temporary barrier - another high fence - that restricted a narrow section of the road from motor traffic. I forgot about civility for a short time and joined a few other photo shooters that were already climbing towards the overpass and displaying a little more acrobatic skill that I was willing to even try to emulate.
When I had exhausted all of the photographic possibilities on top of the overpass, it was time for me to come down to the street level… This part was actually much harder than the way up.
There are more photos below