Aug 9, 2008

Opening ceremonies: behind the scenes

Here's some photos from the opening ceremonies of things you wouldn't get to see on TV.

A truck with a platoon of PLA paramilitary police.

Moving towards the security screening. There's a bunch of nice water misters nearby in case you're hot. At the start of the line, there's a really neat facial recognition system where the computer takes your picture, and if it matches the photo on the RFID in your ticket, you get to go in. You're supposed to bring your ID in case the system doesn't work properly.

What kind of food and snacks were there? Enlarge the photo for a larger look. Surprisingly, it's not outrageously expensive. And there's beer!

If I was one of those spunky Olympic volunteers, I'd want to have the job of the chick in the lifeguard chair. There's nothing more satisfying than yelling directions through a megaphone at people from an elevated position.

These Hungarians are well fed. They stood out since they were twice as wide as anyone else in the crowd.

Here's the set of the NBC Today Show. They weren't inside right before the ceremony.

Here's some of the 2008 drummers from the opening performance.

Security dogs lounging on the grass, their handlers, wearing yellow shirts, standing nearby.

During the athletes' parade, I saw this group of a dozen or so Middle Eastern folks nearby, they were going nuts, and waving an unfamiliar flag around. Through some deduction, I figured out it was the Iranian flag. Before I pulled out my huge American flag when our delegation came into the arena, I asked the nice Cantonese man next to me, "Watch out for that group of Iranians back there. If they come at me when I pull out my flag, call the cops. They're not big fans of ours." Thankfully nothing happened, but it's always good to be prepared.

I took this right after Li Ning lit the cauldron on the roof of the stadium. My seat was almost directly underneath the flame.

I took this one outdoors right after the ceremony.

And finally, another platoon of PLA paramilitary police to remind you to be a good citizen and obey all laws and regulations of the PRC during the Olympics. The Water Cube is on the right in the background. After the ceremony ended, there was an entire company at the southern end of the line 8 subway (Beitucheng). They were mostly standing around preventing pedestrians and traffic from going in certain directions, but it certainly provides a strong deterent to any mischief makers.

The "dumb comments made by Americans" award for the evening:

There's more than a few Americans that came out to Beijing to see this spectacular event. The two people I encountered that stick out in my mind as deserving of an award for saying stupid stuff would be one of these two:
  • The 50-something American guy in the Beitucheng station walking around, loudly calling out in English, "I need one more ticket here, does anyone have one more ticket... Looking to buy one more ticket...". This guy has no clue how many people applied to get tickets for the opening ceremonies, and how closely they're watching for scalpers. Not to mention, even if he did buy a ticket, it would do absolutely no good: he would have had to go to a Bank of China at the latest seven days ago to get his photo and ID information imprinted on the RFID in the ticket.
  • The 60 year-old American man with his wife who, right after the conclusion of the ceremonies some time after midnight, remarks to his wife, "Let's head over there (pointing in the direction of Yayuncun, a quarter mile a way from the stadium) and catch a cab back to the hotel." Good luck! It's hard enough catching a cab during these Olympic times at a typical place like Guomao or Xidan, now you're going to try to do it in a crowd of close to a hundred thousand? Not to mention, unless you're the president of a country, all the streets near the stadium are closed off to private traffic, including taxis. The correct strategy for opening ceremonies transportation is one of: walking, bicycling, subways, or buses. There's not many other options.


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