BEIJING DISPATCH: Sittin’ in the rain


As thundershowers and rain moved into the area, Dr. Bob Elliott still finds himself having trouble getting tickets to Olympic events. In the meantime, he notes how meticulous the Chinese have been about maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in his hotel and in the tourist areas. There is absolutely NO litter to be found on the streets or at various tourist sites, he says.

August 10, 2008

BEIJING - Finally, the rainy weather has arrived. Thundershowers began this morning and continue into the evening hours, soaking all of the outdoor venues and causing a delay in at least one event.  All outdoor venues had many empty seats, but tickets were not available.

In Beijing, Olympic events are broadcast on many channels (CNN, Channel Newsasia/MediaCorp and several CCTV channels).  Other than the obvious difference in language, (CNN and News Asia in English and CCTV in Chinese) the coverage has been dramatically different.  The English-speaking channels cover many controversial topics (i.e., the killing of an American tourist, the conflict involving Russia and Georgia, doping charges, etc.) but are frequently censored during the broadcast.  The Chinese-speaking stations devote nearly all of their coverage to the Chinese teams, particularly to events in which they excel.  For example, during the coverage of the women’s team gymnastics, cameras are fixed on the Chinese team.  While other teams compete, Chinese coverage remains fixated on the Chinese team, even during their warm-ups.  Another frequent distracter is the constant banter between commentators during athletic performances.

It is still very difficult to secure tickets, but when we talk to hotel staff we find that they hold passes to a few of the events.  They cannot attend because they are working.  It appears that they are unable to arrange time off to attend the events.  While tickets for popular events involving USA competitors are available, they remain pricey.  Today we had an opportunity to purchase tickets to an indoor volleyball game scheduled for tomorrow, but they were selling for $200 per ticket. Prices may fall during the next few days.  We will have to wait and see if the Chinese want their venues filled.

The Chinese have been meticulous about maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in our hotel and in the tourist areas.  We have watched hotel staff painstakingly scrub the walls and wood trim in the corridors every day.  There is absolutely NO litter to be found on the streets or at various tourist sites. Thousands of volunteers have undergone extensive preparation to ensure that China presents a positive image to the world.  A good example of this care is apparent in the training that is required of the volunteers who bring the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals to the award presenters. These volunteers must follow certain rules as they carry the three medals on a velvet covered tray — walk slowly to the podium, do not look at the medals as you walk, hide your thumbs under the tray (they must not be visible), smile the entire time you walk, display eight teeth as you smile, when you reach the presenter bend 15 degrees forward at the waist to offer the medals, and when you exit take two steps backward, turn 180 degrees and walk away slowly.

Tonight is the highly anticipated men’s basketball match-up between the USA and China — we will be watching the event from our hotel room — in Chinese.

Dr. Bob Elliott is a freelance photojournalist with over 20 years of experience.  His major focus is on athletic competitions, particularly track and field.  When his schedule permits, he competes in road races.  Dr. Bob works as a neuropsychologist in Los Angeles and resides with his wife in Manhattan Beach, California.

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