Olympic Preparations

Sign on the streets everywhere —
Beijing 2008: One World, One Dream

Sign on a girl passing in the street —
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die

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The Beijing Olympics slogan, “One World, One Dream” appears throughout the city and across China. Photo by Ming Xia (CC).

The beautification of Beijing has begun with a vengeance, even around us — turns out the gym seen through our window is a volley-ball venue. Yesterday thousands of potted plants arrived. They’ve been arranged around the trees lining the street, at the front gate, and along the street leading to the gym. Silhouettes of volley-ball players adorn the fences surrounding the campus and along the road to the gym, and a booth has been put up across the street to be manned by volunteers who are suppose to be able to answer questions in English.

Meanwhile, outside the neighborhood, other kinds of flower displays are appearing everywhere; the air is becoming more breathable; the mobile street food vendors have been banished for the duration; and the city is cleaner thanks to the enormous amount of rain since early June. Sunday, auto traffic will be cut in half — plates ending with even numbers will drive on even dates, ones with odd numbers on odd numbered days. Auto taxes will be reduced for two months. People are buying new bikes, or taking old ones out of storage. The video screens on new subway cars are no longer playing videos on how to use the subway system. Instead we have instructions on various Olympic events with replays from Athens and national games in the PRC. New subway lines are set to open in a few days.

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The 2008 Olympics feature 5 mascots: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini. According to the official website of the Beijing Games, the mascots “embody the natural characteristics of four of China’s most popular animals — the Fish, the Panda, the Tibetan Antelope, the Swallow — and the Olympic Flame. When you put their names together — Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni — they say “Welcome to Beijing,” offering a warm invitation that reflects the mission of Fuwa as young ambassadors for the Olympic Games…” Photo by Zoe Chafe (cc), Beijing 2007.

All is smoldering euphoria here. We don’t know if there will be one big explosion of joy on August 8, or several smaller ones leading up to the opening. I go back to the T-shirt and wonder if its a comment on Olympic mania, rather than a James Dean movie.

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