Interestingly, the actual opening ceremony commenced at 8pm, on the 8th day of the 8th month, in 2008. In Chinese culture, the number 8 is quite auspicious, being associated with prosperity and confidence. 91,000 specftators filled the stadium on that night, a relatively small number of people, considering 21.5 million people currently live in Beijing.
Whilst I wasn’t amongst the 91,000 present at the Birds Nest on that night, Anne and I paid the Olympic Stadium and Aquatic Centre (the Water Cube) a visit during our Beijing sojourn. So why would we deserve an Olympic medal for following the mainstream tourist pathway? Simple answer…….we rode bikes to get there along some of Beijing’s busiest roads!
The roads themselves are wonderful, all with distinctively marked bike-lanes, but when you reach an intersection, it feels like it’s every man (or woman) for themselves. The cars, taxis, buses, bikes, scooters, trikes, pedestrians and the odd donkey and cart, are all vying for the same piece of road. The locals don’t bat an eyelid whilst traversing these intersections, but for Anne and I, it was like breaking a sprint world record. Each one we successfully negotiated received a “high 5” style celebration. If I was carrying an Aussie flag, I would have run a lap of honour.
The thing I haven’t mentioned is that our bikes were battery powered, so whilst we are both competent cyclists, managing a battery powered stead for the first time through an unfamiliar and highly populated city is a very different experience. The ride from our Hutong accommodation in alley 7 to the Stadium complex was only 8km, but it felt like 28km. The adrenalin was certainly pumping when we finally arrived at our destination. It took a few deep breaths, a cold drink, and a number of minutes, before the trembling stopped.
Being able to see the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube in “the flesh”, and explore their inner depths was worth the ride. The enormity and splendour of these architectural masterpieces is a site to behold, but now, 7 years on from that Opening Ceremony, there is not the same crowd in attendance. The stadium tours certainly attract many tourists, but the two venues are no longer living the sporting glory days that they once did.
That’s quite sad, given the splendour of the structures and utility of the facilities. On undertaking a little more research, I have discovered that this is not a unique situation to Beijing, nor many previous Olympic Park’s. Click here to discover more about nine historic Olympic Cities, and what they look like today.
I’m glad that we visited the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, and glad that we chose to ride the bikes. Our Beijing biking skills are continuing to improve, and we look forward to more Chinese adventures.