The Beijing Olympics

This item appears on page 32 of the December 2008 issue.
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Well over a year before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, my wife, Margi, and I discussed the possibility of attending. Never having attended any Olympic event but having some familiarity with China, we felt this might be a unique opportunity. We signed on with CoSport (Box 905, Far Hills, NJ 07931; 877/457-4647 or 908/766-2227, www.cosport.com), the official ticket agent for the United States.

We purchased a package for Aug. 7-10, 2008, that included hotel, most meals, a few excursions, receptions, the use of a VIP hospitality area at the Olympic Green (the area of Beijing where most of the events were held) and ground transportation to the various events. We chose to go to the opening ceremony, swimming, badminton and basketball.

The price for two was $15,172. Economy-class round-trip airfare for the two of us on United (operated by Air China), New York-Beijing, cost $5,405. We went one day early to acclimate and for leeway in case of delays. The extra night at our hotel, the Minzu (Funxingmennei St.), cost $817. The food at the Minzu was good and the service excellent.

CoSport provided our group with an American advisor, Kevin Miller, and two young Chinese student guides. These three provided information, commentary and assistance.

There was a great deal of pretrip security work, the reason for which became obvious later. We had to send copies of all documentation, including our double-entry China visas, as well as digital photographs.

After the nonstop, 12-hour flight from JFK to Beijing, we arrived at Beijing Airport’s new Terminal 3 and immediately knew we were in “Olympic territory.” There were flags, posters and many uniformed volunteers who had been trained for nearly a year to provide assistance to visitors.

The city glowed with illuminated buildings plus thousands of new trees and flowers planted along the streets and floral arrangements in pots. Main streets were clean, and the people seemed bursting with pride and joy, determined to make this Olympics a world-class event.

On Friday, Aug. 8, we were driven to the security entrances to the National Stadium, or Bird’s Nest, where we began the very thorough check-in process for the opening ceremony. We were allowed to carry only small bags, with no water or food. We were frisked and photographed and our documents and photographs compared to the information we had sent earlier. Finally, the very elaborate ticket we had been given was passed through a scanner, and when the light glowed green we were good to go.

The Bird’s Nest venue was quite comfortable. There were many restroom facilities, but what food or drink there was available ran out quickly.

We, the audience, had to be in our seats early, as we had a rehearsal! At each seat there was a bag with a flashlight, light sticks, water, Chinese flag, elaborate program and other items concerning the Games. We ran through a rehearsal as to when we were supposed to wave the flashlights, light sticks and so forth.

The Opening Ceremony was an event like no other we have seen. The lights went out, numbers flashed in the big TV monitors, and the crowd counted down. Then fireworks burst from around the top of the Bird’s Nest, the lights came up, and 2,008 drummers, arrayed across the field, performed as one; their timing was so perfect.

After the entertainment program, the entry of the athletes took nearly two hours — little wonder, with 204 countries and territories represented! Finally, the Olympic hymn was sung, the flag was raised, the oaths were taken by athletes and judges, the torch was lit and the Games were declared open. The evening concluded with more spectacular fireworks as 90,000 people filed out of the exits.

The next morning we saw a badminton contest at the Beijing Science & Technology University Gymnasium (a well-designed venue with good sight lines). For lunch we were transferred to the Olympic VIP Hospitality Centre at the Olympic Green. There we had a chance to relax, cool off, eat and then walk around the unique buildings.

At the end of the afternoon we were transferred to the National Aquatic Centre, or Water Cube, to see swimming heats in butterfly, freestyle, breaststroke, etc. We saw US competitor Michael Phelps break his old Olympic record. He went on to take home eight gold medals.

Our final Olympic event was double-header basketball games. In the second game, US vs. China, the US won 101 to 70.

This turned out to be one of the most sleep-deprived and strenuous journeys we had ever undertaken, but it was worth it.

DUSTY MILLER

Worcester, MA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Well over a year before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, my wife, Margi, and I discussed the possibility of attending. Never having attended any Olympic event but having some familiarity with China, we felt this might be a unique opportunity. We signed on with CoSport (Box 905, Far Hills, NJ 07931; 877/457-4647 or 908/766-2227, www.cosport.com), the official ticket agent for the United States.

We purchased a package for Aug. 7-10, 2008, that included hotel, most meals, a few excursions, receptions, the use of a VIP hospitality area at the Olympic Green (the area of Beijing where most of the events were held) and ground transportation to the various events. We chose to go to the opening ceremony, swimming, badminton and basketball.

The price for two was $15,172. Economy-class round-trip airfare for the two of us on United (operated by Air China), New York-Beijing, cost $5,405. We went one day early to acclimate and for leeway in case of delays. The extra night at our hotel, the Minzu (Funxingmennei St.), cost $817. The food at the Minzu was good and the service excellent.

CoSport provided our group with an American advisor, Kevin Miller, and two young Chinese student guides. These three provided information, commentary and assistance.

There was a great deal of pretrip security work, the reason for which became obvious later. We had to send copies of all documentation, including our double-entry China visas, as well as digital photographs.

After the nonstop, 12-hour flight from JFK to Beijing, we arrived at Beijing Airport’s new Terminal 3 and immediately knew we were in “Olympic territory.” There were flags, posters and many uniformed volunteers who had been trained for nearly a year to provide assistance to visitors.

The city glowed with illuminated buildings plus thousands of new trees and flowers planted along the streets and floral arrangements in pots. Main streets were clean, and the people seemed bursting with pride and joy, determined to make this Olympics a world-class event.

On Friday, Aug. 8, we were driven to the security entrances to the National Stadium, or Bird’s Nest, where we began the very thorough check-in process for the opening ceremony. We were allowed to carry only small bags, with no water or food. We were frisked and photographed and our documents and photographs compared to the information we had sent earlier. Finally, the very elaborate ticket we had been given was passed through a scanner, and when the light glowed green we were good to go.

The Bird’s Nest venue was quite comfortable. There were many restroom facilities, but what food or drink there was available ran out quickly.

We, the audience, had to be in our seats early, as we had a rehearsal! At each seat there was a bag with a flashlight, light sticks, water, Chinese flag, elaborate program and other items concerning the Games. We ran through a rehearsal as to when we were supposed to wave the flashlights, light sticks and so forth.

The Opening Ceremony was an event like no other we have seen. The lights went out, numbers flashed in the big TV monitors, and the crowd counted down. Then fireworks burst from around the top of the Bird’s Nest, the lights came up, and 2,008 drummers, arrayed across the field, performed as one; their timing was so perfect.

After the entertainment program, the entry of the athletes took nearly two hours — little wonder, with 204 countries and territories represented! Finally, the Olympic hymn was sung, the flag was raised, the oaths were taken by athletes and judges, the torch was lit and the Games were declared open. The evening concluded with more spectacular fireworks as 90,000 people filed out of the exits.

The next morning we saw a badminton contest at the Beijing Science & Technology University Gymnasium (a well-designed venue with good sight lines). For lunch we were transferred to the Olympic VIP Hospitality Centre at the Olympic Green. There we had a chance to relax, cool off, eat and then walk around the unique buildings.

At the end of the afternoon we were transferred to the National Aquatic Centre, or Water Cube, to see swimming heats in butterfly, freestyle, breaststroke, etc. We saw US competitor Michael Phelps break his old Olympic record. He went on to take home eight gold medals.

Our final Olympic event was double-header basketball games. In the second game, US vs. China, the US won 101 to 70.

This turned out to be one of the most sleep-deprived and strenuous journeys we had ever undertaken, but it was worth it.

DUSTY MILLER

Worcester, MA