BEIJING DISPATCH: On the eve of the Olympics


By Dr. Bob Elliott, YouNews correspondent

Dr. Bob Elliot covered the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene for YouNews. Now he's in Beijing sending back reports from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games for readers. | OLYMPIC SCHEDULE

BEIJING, China -- Today (Thursday) is the day before the opening ceremony.  We have been here a week and for most of the time it has been relatively quiet around the venues and the hotel.  

Tonight, President Brush has arrived and bedlam broke loose.  China army troops are readily apparent everywhere downtown and around the National Stadium. | OLYMPIC SCHEDULE

We were scheduled to take a tour to the most popular section (Badaling) of the Great Wall today but the tour group was diverted at the last minute to another less visited section (Mutianyu) further out in the countryside.  As we traveled this route it is noteworthy that almost all roads that intersect with the main road are dirt and the housing and storefront structures are very old, dirty, and poorly maintained.  It is a very poor country and people are everywhere sitting on chairs, sitting on their hunches, or sleeping on the ground.  So many people just hanging around not engaged in any activity and certainly not working—it is no wonder that the goods are so cheap—their is so much manpower that is unused.

The price of everything for purchase can and should be negotiated.  Only uniformed tourists pay the asking price.  Although tour books advise you to try to pay one-half of the initial asking price I find that many items, especially clothing or fabric items, can be had for 10 percent of the initial asking price.  At some point you begin to feel guilty because the price is so cheap that you wonder how the salesperson can survive on the what you eventually pay for the item.

Many of our USA track and field athletes have not yet arrived.  The smog has not lifted and the temperatures remain in the high 80s-90s.  Our track and field athletes have decided to remain out of the area (Dalian, China) for several more days.  

The selection of Lopez Lomong by his team members to be the flag bearer for the USA team has caught the attention of the the Chinese.  Lopez Lomong, a Sudanese-born runner, is a member of an athletic group that is critical of China's policies toward Darfur.  

Chinese TV is desperately trying to downplay all of the political intrigue but there are so many outlets for the news media that their success has been very limited.  

Even Chinese TV periodically edits pictures and interviews in the mid-sentences of interviews and flashes a code on TV alerting the viewer that the broadcast is “edited” but it so apparent what the individual being interviewed was trying to say.

Tomorrow the Opening Ceremony will take place.  We have been trying to obtain tickets somewhere but have had not success unless you are willing to pay $3,000-$4,000 for a ticket on the Internet.  It is apparent that the corporate sponsor groups are those with access to such tickets.  The common traveler has not had access to these tickets since the beginning four years ago.  We tried with no success.

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