Thursday, February 27, 2014

Running Around Beijing's Olympic Green

The most expensive Olympics Games in history are over now, and Sochi is free to commence its downward spiral until the day when it's featured in "Abandoned Olympic Venues" articles floating around on the internet. I actually never got to watch the 2014 Winter Olympics other than the entertaining clip of when AT-AT Walkers attacked downhill skiers. Our satellite TV went out during a January power outage, and I've been holding firm to my stance that the kids need to figure out how to fix it if they want to watch television.

What surprises me when I look through those Abandoned Olympic Venues pictures is that Beijing is in there. Granted, it's nowhere close to the pinnacle of attention it once occupied in Summer 2008, but I wouldn't label it abandoned.

When I asked the kids what they wanted to visit in Beijing, what do you think was at the top of my teen son's list? Not the Forbidden City. Not the Great Wall. His pick was seeing the Beijing National Stadium, a.k.a. "The Birds Nest" with his own two eyes.

Birds Nest, stadium, Olympic, Beijing
The Birds Nest (Beijing National Stadium)

That's how we found ourselves at Bejing Olympic Green one October day surrounded by busloads of Chinese tourists. Located just 25 minutes away from the Forbidden City in one direction and the Summer Palace in another, it's close enough to other popular sites that it's easy to stop by for an hour to walk around.

On one side of the very long plaza running the length of the green is the Beijing National Stadium, affectionately known as "The Birds Nest." It has a distinctively irregular, steel latticework design which originated from the study of Chinese ceramics. This was the home of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as football matches and track and field events. Covering 258,000 square meters, it can seat up to 80,000 people  a figure that it comes no where near approaching nowadays.

I warned my boy that since we were arriving late in the afternoon too near to closing time, we wouldn't be able to go in for him to do his best Usain Bolt imitation. Our guide says that it's now mainly used for concerts or winter ice skating, although you can pay CNY50 per person if you just want to go in to look around and take photos.


Beijing, aquatics, Olympic, swimming
The Water Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center)

The Water Cube whose official name is the Beijing National Aquatics Center sits across the plaza from the Birds Nest. It was the site of the 2008 Summer Olympic swimming and diving events and is currently being utilized as an indoor water park. The outer surface looks like soap bubbles squeezing through a polyhedral frame.


Beijing, Olympic, dragon building, torch
Pangu Plaza - Olympic torch or Dragon Head?

We couldn't help noticing the 39-stories-tall building rising up behind the Water Cube. It's called Pangu Plaza and is not actually part of the Olympic complex. What we thought was a torch is supposed to be a dragon head, and the four boxy looking, 23-story-tall buildings trailing behind it represent the dragon's undulating body. Ok, whatever... if you say so. The tallest building is a 7-star hotel while the rest of the plaza is a shopping mall, office space, and residential apartments.

kites
Numerous kites guide your eyes up to heaven

Besides the modern architecture in a city better known for its ancient structures, what I will remember most about Beijing's Olympic Green is the numerous kite sellers strolling up and down the plaza among the hundreds of tourists. They daisy chainned together multiple 5-kite strands so that they stretched high into the sky.  At one point, an electric police buggy came by, and the crowd of kite sellers started strolling away from them. "Oh me sir? No, I'm not selling anything. I just happened to come out today to fly this massive line of kites right here."

Tip: Instead of buying your kids souvenir kites, just pick up a discarded one from the ground and let them run around to make it fly since the string is so short it won't catch any air.

Running around Beijing Olympic Green

Our time walking around this 2008 Summer Olympics venue was brief but interesting. Plus, it gave us a chance to attempt to form the Olympic Rings ourselves.

Chinese tourists took pictures of us posing like the Olympic rings
The strange thing is that I saw a few strangers, probably Chinese tourists, stopping to take pictures of us as we posed for our own camera. Why do you think they wanted a photograph?
a. We're such a cute, clever family.
b. We have THREE kids, even though the oldest is a boy.
c. My husband is white and over 2 meters tall (and incredibly handsome). 
d. All of the above 



This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox, Friday Postcards on Walking On Travels, "Oh the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper, and Sunday Traveler at Chasing the Donkey. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


28 comments:

  1. This brought back some very pleasant memories. When I worked the 08 Games I walked through the park every day on the way to my press seat in the Bird's Nest. Looks like you had relatively clear skies, too. :)

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  2. Love your stance on the TV, if more parents were like that then I think the world would be a better place :)

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  3. Well first the answer to the question is most definitely 'd'! The Bejing Olympics were the last one's that I really went out of my way to sit down and watch on TV. I just haven't found the time to watch them as much anymore. And of course it's just not important to me like it used to be. I have to admit I would want to see the iconic buildings just like your son wanted to. It is interesting to see what becomes of a city and all of the peripheral work AFTER the games are over. This was really awesome to read, Michele. And great job on some of those framed photos!! :)

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  4. It's amazing the amount of money that is spent only to have the sites virtually abandoned. We hosted World Cup Cricket (not as big as the Olympics but...) several years ago and built a whole new stadium to accommodate the fans and the matches. We're still trying to find ways to find useful purpose for it.

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  5. Wonderful pictures about a place that I wondered "what happened after the show ended." Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics and I'm thrilled to say ALL the venues are being used to their fullest. Many countries send their athletes here to practice and learn to excel in their sport. We get to watch World Cup events and see the athletes that then go on to the Olympics.

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  6. I loved the Beijing Olympics, i must have watched the entire games on TV ... and you guys are a cute family :).

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  7. It's always interesting to learn about what happened to Olympic venues after the crowds have gone home. Love your Olympic Rings pose!!

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  8. It's always interesting to learn about what happened to Olympic venues after the crowds went home. Love your Olympic rings pose!!

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  9. Great photos and neat scenes from Beijing.. I love the last shot with olympic rings, great shot. Thanks for sharing, have a happy weekend!

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  10. What a fun post to read and I would choose "all of the above". It's always interesting to know what happens to Olympic venues but you sure never hear much about their fate. I'm still blown away by the Sochi price tag and wonder where it goes from here.

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  11. I can only imagine my kids would have the satellite fixed in record time. I kid you not. They don't watch an incredible amount of TV, but it is American Idol season. :)

    Love the Bird's Nest. What a cool structure but I'm with you on the "dragon" building. I totally thought it was a torch.

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  12. d), lol. I wonder if regular chinese people can afford to go skating or attend the concerts at the Bird's Nest. It says a lot about our throw away society that Sochi is already classified as abandoned! Love the ingenuity of the kite sellers just taking their huge line of kites for a stroll.

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  13. I'm glad your son was able to see The Bird's Nest. I would have wanted to see it too and the Beijing Opening ceremony was one of my favorites. It really is a bit sad to see the state of these Olympic venues after the hoopla is over. I see it every time I go to LA and pass by the Colosseum and we saw it in Sydney a month after the games were over. The Olympic area was like a ghost town. Love the family olympic rings. Of course, it's all of the above :)

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  14. Hahaha... like your stance on TV; did they fix it finally? I watched the reportage on Abandoned Olympic venues in Athens. Sad, actually. I believe 2m tall husband got you all the attention in China :)

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  15. Very Fun Post, we will be in China in August ~ love this and I think they are taking your photo for All of the Above! Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

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  16. I visited the Bird's Nest when I was in Beijing, so thanks for bring back some memories. Although I have to be honest, all I was thinking about most of the time I was in Beijing was how to escape the heat and humidity. It was close to 40C everyday I was there and 100% humidity! I also lost my memory card from that trip, so have no photos of Beijing or the Great Wall. Looks like I will have to go back one of the these days.

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  17. What a neat post! I just love how you all took the time to be silly and really have fun - that is an achievement with kids in tow! Thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler!

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  18. Great pictures! I love the motion shot in the running picture. Nicely short. One of these day I will make my way to see Beijing. Until my budget works with me I will just travel through your pictures.

    KÖLNER DOM | COLOGNE CATHERDRAL

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  19. Great shot of the kites! The light was perfect there. Really hope to be able to explore this part of the world soon.

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  20. Oh my goodness, I love your picture doing the Olympic Rings. I also like the kite picture. The Beijing Olympic site actually looks really nice, especially compared to what we have in Atlanta, which is..... well, almost nothing. The only thing that stands out at the Atlanta Centennial Park is some water fountain that's really popular here during summer time.

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  21. Beijing certainly has changed a lot since my last visit 17 years ago!

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  22. Looks like you had fun. We visited the abandoned Athens Olympic stadium a few years ago and were lucky enough to go to the London games while actually on, but I can imagine if we were to visit Beijing my boys would ask to see the Bird's Nest too. It's a great-looking stadium! #SundayTraveler

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  23. Haha, I absolutely love the little quiz at the end, too cute! This got me thinking about abandoned olympic sights, how interesting! I was in Sarajevo a few summers ago, and even though the games have long gone there (the 80's, I believe?!) people still take such pride in it!

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  24. I love this stadium and I'm so glad it's still being used. I visited in 2011 and it had been transformed into a winter park, complete with ski slopes and ice rinks. I love visiting the past Olympic sites - I've visited all but four - and yes, there are a few that are in poor condition. They're definitely something worth preserving :)

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  25. I also wondered what happened when it all ended - now I know. It looks as if you all had fun. I think you are very well photographed because of all Four points you make! Lovely looking family :)

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  26. I've been to a couple Olympic parks afterwards and it's pretty neat to see :) Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler :)

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  27. You guys look like you're having a ton of fun! I'd love to visit the stadium too. There's an exact replica of the Bird's Nest in San Jose Costa Rica but I haven't seen it yet either.

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