Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sites and Sounds of Day One

The first two days in Beijing were absolutely amazing. Sensory overload and sheer exhaustion mixed with elation to be at the Olympic host city and to get reacquainted with friends from past Games.

After a restful night and sumptuous breakfast (including pork dumplings!) at Novotel Peace Beijing, I spent a bit of the first morning in my room getting organized (packing back in Atlanta was a bit of a late-night whirlwind). But by noon on Day One, it was time to venture out across the city with Olympic credential in hand, braving Beijing's metro system.

The city subways are the best I've ever seen (at last, a "Metro" like the one imagined from the famous and totally awesome '80s hit by Berlin (that's the band Berlin). Every station is spotless and fussed over by a small army of security, maintenance and blue-shirted Games volunteers eager to help. The nearest station to our hotel is just four stops, including one transfer, from Tiananmen Square, and I'll always remember emerging from the underground to see Mao's Tomb in person for the first time, as well as a sea of tens of thousands of tourists spending time in the square (across a 12-lane street from the tomb).

T-Square's outer border (across other highway-like surface streets) is lined with massive sycamore and evergreen trees providing much needed shade. I stumbled into the first of three Olympic stores just before spotting my new work home for the next 28 days: British Columbia Canada Pavilion, the Games destination created by Edelman client, The Province of British Columbia.

After a quick tour and introductions in the Pavilion (which I will describe in much more detail in a future post), it was time to head over to Edelman's Beijing office, another metro ride. By this early evening time, my eyes were a bit blurry, so in the time spent looking up at the 40-or-so level tower that houses Edelman, I completely missed the iconic new (and gargantuan -- must-see-it-to-believe it!) CCTV Tower under construction behind me (the photo taken from Edelman Beijing is a bit dark, so hoping to snap a daytime shot later -- I was speechless when seeing it for the first time, overwhelmed and also stunned at the question to self, 'How did I miss that?!').

Everyone is so friendly here! From the volunteers to colleagues, street vendors to complete strangers, Beijing is about to burst with pride and excitement. I've captured many stares and curious looks from kids, but always with a smile and usually with an attempt at conversation (starting to pick up a few catch phrases ... for the folks back at Edelman Atlanta, none of these phrases qualify for the "curse word fundraising board" - yet).

I didn't make it out of the Edelman office that first night until about 11:30 (2330 hrs), which made for an intense search for a taxi. It was wonderful to rest and start the whole thing over again yesterday. More from Day Two to come in next post.

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