Friday, August 8, 2008

The Olympics...

I am currently watching the Opening Ceremonies!!! I can't believe the Olympics are already here... Currently the USA delegation is walking across the screen and I can't believe how many fucking people we have. Most countries have well under 200 people and we have almost 600. Of course, I think we compete in almost every event. I never really paid attention to the fact that there were countries that came to the Olympics with only one or two athletes before. I also never realized how few women there are from most countries. Watching this ceremony, however, I realize that we are definitely the exception. 

I don't think that I will be going to Beijing to see any events there, but I do think I will try and get tickets to some of the soccer games that are taking place here in Shanghai. On Sunday I went to the USA vs. Russia expo game here in Shanghai. It wasn't the best game I've ever seen, but the halftime show was really freaking cool, and we did win. 

The most exciting part about having that game here and the USA vs. Australia game is that the teams were all staying at a hotel near me. (The Ritz in the Portman building) This is the same place as the Starbuck's that I meet my student in, so I got to see Team USA and Team Russia. I saw all the players up close and realized how fucking tall they really are. I also spoke to Jason Kidd. I'm not going to lie, I don't pay attention to players. I love watching sports, but I don't care enough to find out people's names and memorize their faces. Therefore, I had no idea who he was when I spoke to him, I just knew he was a player. It was a brief conversation, and I did not ask for any autographs from any of them because I couldn't give a shit if I have their signature or not. It was just cool to see them. 

The shit part is that they had really increased security in the hotel. The Starbucks doesn't have a bathroom so you have to go into the hotel lobby... and to get into the hotel lobby I had to go through a metal detector and put my bags through a scanner. When my bags came out the other end, the guy wanted to open the spaghetti sauce I had literally just bought at the grocery store in the same little complex. I basically said, "No. I just bought this next door. Here's the receipt." The guy let me go without opening my spaghetti sauce. I'm not sure what just opening it would have done anyway. What was he going to do? Sniff it and declare that everything's good because it still smells like tomatoes? Anyway, I just had to take a piss and I wasn't about to let him open my $6 bottle of spaghetti sauce for that. I would rather have left. 

Security in general in China has gone a little nuts. There have been so many changes here. It's hard to explain and I can honestly say that you have to live here to really understand, but suffice it to say that they are taking no chances. At least on the surface. I really hope nothing goes wrong this Olympics. I can't tell you how devastating it would be to China to have some massive terrorist attack on something public here during the Olympics. I think they happen relatively frequently here, just not in Shanghai or Beijing. They're not letting anyone on buses or subways without checking their bags first though. Getting around in Beijing is probably a bit of a bitch right now if you want to take public transport. The roads are really empty, though, from what I have heard. They took like 90 percent of the cars off the road. 

The level of control here is truly amazing. The fact that they can shut down factories and demand drivers to empty the roadways without offering any real alternative or monetary compensation (which they don't) is pretty amazing. They have shut down a lot of retail outlets that they feel are in vulnerable positions, like in the subways, in order to reduce security threats. The restaurants behind the Portman were closed while the basketball teams were here because they shared an entryway with the courts where the players practiced. 

At any rate, with all of this preparation I really hope that China can pull this off. I think they  can... One story that made me laugh recently though was the uproar over four American cyclists arriving in Beijing with masks on. Chinese people were really offended by this for some reason. I would just like to say that even though, yes, the pollution in Beijing is the best it's been in a while.... there is still a lot of pollution. Despite what Chinese people like to think... it does affect you. Especially if you're continuously exerting yourself outside. I know a lot of people who have developed coughs here or have problems with their asthma due to the air quality. Also, there are a lot of Chinese people who wear masks, though come to think of it, I have seen a lot fewer these last couple of months. 

The weather in Shanghai has been great!! I have been able to see clouds, the sky has had different shades of blue as well as a few other colors peeking through at sunset, and I have been able to clearly see the moon for the past few days. I'm not sure what they're doing, but it's working. It's still obviously polluted, but it looks a lot better. 

Well, that's all I have to say for now I think. I am really excited to watch some events and to see how the US does. For the first time in a long time it slightly matters to me how the Olympics turn out. The last time I remotely pretended to care was when they were in Atlanta, and that was only because my sister was living in Atlanta at the time. Here's hoping I can get some soccer tickets and get a chance to actually go to a real 2008 Olympics game!!! It should be a fun couple of weeks.

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