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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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|
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.