Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Olympic (Mis)Adventure

So we woke up this morning and looked at the schedule of events for today's Olympics. The only event this morning was the men's triathlon. Now since I didn't qualify for the competition, we figured we might do the next best thing and check out the event in person. This was the start of quite an unexpected chain of events...

We couldn't find a taxi to take us to the event. Now, mind you, taxis are everywhere in Beijing. There is even a little taxi stand (more like a random cluster of cabs) right in our apartment complex. It didn't faze us too much when there wasn't a taxi to be had locally, but half an hour and half a mile of wandering later, we still hadn't nabbed one. Just when we were about to give up and move on to plan B, Desi saved the day and the craziness went on...

Our poor taxi driver. This shifu had no idea what he was in for. After telling him where we wanted to go, off we went on a nearly hour-long journey out to the Ming Tomb Reservoir, where the triathlon event was to be held. Now, by this time, you may realize that we had no tickets for the event. We figured we might be able to watch the athletes go by on the street during the cycling part of the competition. Or perhaps we might score some tickets for the event itself.

Upon arriving at the north entrance of the venue, though, we were told by security guards that we could go no further without tickets. "Well is there a place we can catch a glimpse of the race?" Turns out the south entrance is the place to go for wannabes like us. I asked the driver if it is far from one entrance to the other. His short answer said it all, bu jin. It isn't close.

This is when things got really crazy. At one point, after twisting and turning through some county roads (and backing up after a wrong turn), the driver pulled the cab over to the side of the road in a local town we were passing through. Desi asked if we had arrived. Nope, I said, the shifu is getting out and asking for directions. Now that has to be a Beijing first!

After a lot of hand gesturing, our little journey continued. But it wasn't long before we were over on the side of the road again, this time talking with some police officers who were standing around while their car was being washed. Satisfied with the answer he received, our shifu made a u-turn in the middle of the road and off went we again.

Finally, we pulled up to an umbrella on the side of a road at the edge of town. More directions? Nope, this is where the road ends, at least for taxis. So we said goodbye to our shifu and got on the "Special Olympic Bus" that would take us the rest of the way to the south entrance.

Now this has to be the strangest bus route of all time. Most of the riders were not going out to the venue to see the event. They were simply locals who were taking advantage of the new mass transit connection between their homes in the countryside and the nearest town (where they work, do their shopping, and so forth). I guess when the Olympics are over, they will dust off their bicycles.

After a few minutes, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and told us that we have to get off and walk the rest of the way to the south entrance. What a mysterious place, this south entrance!

After walking up the hill, we finally catch sight of the south entrance. It does exist after all!

But where are the scalpers hawking tickets? Turns out we were not the only ones asking this question. There were a bunch of foreigners standing around, doing the same thing as us. And then there were groups of locals, sitting, squatting, and standing around under various shade trees. Why there were there is anybody's guess. Their presence contributed to the feeling that this could not possibly be the site of an Olympic event. But the helicopters circling overhead confirmed that the triathlon was indeed going on just yards away from where we stood.

Defeated (in a good-spirited way), we jumped back on the "special" bus and headed back to town. From there we figured out that "regular" bus 345 could take us back into Beijing. And so for a grand total of about $2, we made the hour-long trek in reverse (minus, of course, all of the wrong turns and direction asking).

Now, can anybody tell us who won the men's triathlon?



At 7:27 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Sounds like a normal Balla Family Adventure to me!

I was reading the IOC press conference notes and it mentions how they have really tightened up on the ticket scalpers. It will be pretty hard to find the tickets the unconventional way! Now the question is what do they do with the confiscated scalped tickets???

BTW, Jan Fiodeno (Ger) won Gold, Simon Whitfield (Can) 2nd, Bevan Docherty (New Z) was 3rd, and the USA came in 7th, 18th and 32nd!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Apparently, there are a couple of web sites here that have tickets at face value. At least that's what some people at Julie and Z's school (which we visited yesterday) told us. They also told us some foreigners have been thrown in jail for scalping...


At 3:54 PM, Blogger Jaimie Smith said...

I missed you, and I finally finished grad school...A YEAR IN CHINA? And both kids are triathletes? I'm a martial arts mom myself. Your family always did do the cool stuff. Things are good-work is great since the evil ones have left, today is Cameron's seventh birthday. Willie will be 11 in March. I googled Balla...+Desi...+Steve...+ Julie...+Z-man...PAYDIRT! I love Boolean operators. Email me? selmer1958@yahoo.com


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