Is there anyone in Beijing…

…who doesn’t think the mood in the city is now totally, breathtakingly surreal – a hundred times more so than usual? It’s really here, that moment so many have been waiting for, whether with trepidation or joy, and it’s starting to sink in: This is it. Police cars, sirens whirring, are everywhere, taxis are at a premium, everyone seems to be trying to speak English, and there’s a general mood of contained hysteria. It’s the moment of truth. They asked for it, they got it. Let the cards fall where they may.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

I know what you mean. It feels so strange here. After so many years of waiting, and all the drama that’s unfolded, I can’t believe its actually here. Alea iacta est.

August 5, 2008 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

I have a feeling it will all be pretty anti-climactic, but in a good way. Every possible political/economic/cultural/environmental angle has already been covered ad nauseum in the months (even years) leading up to the event, so there is really nothing left to do besides watch some athletes perform to the best of their abilities. Let’s get these damn Games going, FINALLY!

August 6, 2008 @ 2:30 am | Comment

oops, make that “anti-climatic” in the first sentence of the last post, I wasn’t intending some pun on emission levels. ๐Ÿ™‚

August 6, 2008 @ 2:34 am | Comment

PB, every Olympics is an anti-climax.

August 6, 2008 @ 6:46 am | Comment

Well, I’m looking forward to having a few beers at the Mongolian Cheers Bar. I’ll see you all next week!

August 6, 2008 @ 6:51 am | Comment

Isn’t the euphoria of enjoying this current state of affairs just going to make the depression we’ll all experience when China rubber-bands back to usual pollution, disorder, and disregard all the more worse? Let’s not forget that China is really straining quite hard to create this “nice atmosphere,” doing things like removing half of the cars from the city and shooting pellets into the sky. They’re not going to continue doing that afterward.

August 6, 2008 @ 7:51 am | Comment

It’s like New Years eve times a million….you spend months talking it up, and because it gets so overhyped it often turns out to be a fizzer. But the possibility remains for it to blow your mind.
It’s still so strange to think it will all be over in a couple of weeks.

August 6, 2008 @ 10:59 am | Comment

I just left Qingdao yesterday. The algae is gone, and the souvenir shops around the sailing venues are doing a brisk business. Later this month I will check out the equestrian events in Hong Kong.

August 6, 2008 @ 11:16 am | Comment

kind of like it was during SARS

August 6, 2008 @ 11:55 am | Comment

@Rhys, I would say just like your wedding party: sooo long time to prepare, everything has to be perfect. Then, you are not really enjoying it as you put too much pressure on it.

August 6, 2008 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

yeah maybe haha, haven’t got that far yet and not too intent on it

August 6, 2008 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

China, or at least Beijing, will have the baddest hang-over in the universe once the olympic high is gone.

August 6, 2008 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

I ride through Tiananmen Square late at night in a taxi quite often on my way home, and everyday there are crazy new things to see. Have you seen the two updated traffic light stands between the square and the gate? They’ve got pink glowing lights on the bottom.

All of the sculptures and buildings were fully lit tonight, and there were tow trucks and police units standing around with lights flashing on many corners. It certainly is a bit surreal.

August 7, 2008 @ 12:57 am | Comment


The quality of life is also improving rapidly in other Chinese cities that are NOT part of the Olympic venue (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai… really, the list could include everywhere) as well. Beijing’s not just getting better “because of the Olympics”.

August 8, 2008 @ 6:34 pm | Comment

Well, Chris, the post that I am responding to referred particularly to a specific kind of feeling of surreality, not “improvement in general.” The feeling of things being surreal because of efforts that are primarily directed at preparation for the Olympics and will probably be shed after the Olympics leave – cities like Guangzhou have NOT removed all the factories from their cities or forcefully decreased automobile traffic by half, and so what this post is talking about, that surreal feeling of euphoria and anticipation is probably significantly lower in non-Olympic venues where it is all mental and social rather than also the physical effect of being in a place with (artificially, temporarily) cleaner air, (artificially temporarily) polite taxi drivers and no cars on the street.

In my comment, I said nothing about “improvements” in general in China regressing after the Olympics – if you actually read it, I referred to the “feeling of euphoria” and “nice atmosphere.” That is absolutely connected to the Olympics (and will be connected to the Olympics’ subsequential departure).

And as someone who’s lived in Xinjiang, no, the list could not include everywhere, unless by everywhere you mean places like the ones you listed – every one a coastal metropolis who collectively represent the OPPOSITE of everywhere, who collectively represent one prominent but still proportionally small slice of life in China, not the lives of the “other” 80% of China international communities don’t see (farmers, rural workers, minorities) or even the massive amount of domestic migrants that have built the “rapid improvement” in those select cities but still somehow live in dingy conditions that many expats and international observers don’t seem notice or don’t pay attention to.

August 8, 2008 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

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