Monday, September 1, 2008

"Is this Beijing?"

by Maple Xu

[in translation]

My husband W and a friend H went to see the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and their conclusions were unusually uniform: it was fun and playful.

Zhang Yimou had put word out early on that the closing ceremony wouldn't have many performances; the goal was simply to delight and cheer the athletes, like throwing a huge party. So from the beginning W and H did not hold hope of seeing splendid performances. They just wanted to be there in person, to feel the ambience. 

They say the Olympic Village is big and beautiful, where one can spend days to tour around.

Though the closing ceremony was broadcast at 8 o'clock, on site the programs began about 6:00 pm, so-called "stage warm-up." Chen Peisi, Yang Lan, Zhou Tao etc. were performing. And, while the broadcast finished at 10:00 pm, on site people kept boisterous until after 11:00 pm - Chen Long, Liu Dehua and a bunch of Chinese singers bounced and sang.

As soon as W and H entered [the Bird's Nest], they were given a big bag of things: red-silk fan, rattle-drum, light-torch, national and Olympic flags, etc. Volunteers taught them how and when to use those things. After the ceremony began, volunteers led the audience play those props. One moment they shook the rattle-drum, the next they waved the toy torch. They even used the red-silk fan to form big waves. In short all the audience were kept busy, not sure if they were watching others perform, or others watching them.

Two days before W's trip, he had a leg problem. He boarded the plane with a bandaged leg. Unexpectedly, as soon as he boarded, he was invited to the first class cabin. After he landed in Beijing, volunteers held his arms to help him get on a taxi. When eating [in restaurants], he was exempted from waiting in line, and volunteers even made a special table for him. His impression of Beijing was that it was unusually pretty and tidy. Because traffic was strictly controlled, few cars or pedestrians could be seen on the streets. All ads that were irrelevant to Olympics had been removed. This clean-up resulted in a complete new face of the city, so much so it made him wonder – "Is this Beijing?"

And H the American Shanghaier even wondered "Is this China?" Because people in Beijing suddenly became super friendly, live Lei Fengs [a famous Samaritan] were everywhere on the streets, everyone's face was full of spring wind and wreathed in smiles, and our countrymen's usual numb, detached, or gloomy looks were completely wiped out. 

They both said that if you want to visit Beijing, it is the best time now. It is abnormally Heaven-like. I'm afraid that, after the Paralympics, everything will return to normal again.

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