Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fly On In...

...to the Bird's Nest and you'll be overtaken by its structural significance.

Ever wonder how birds construct their intricate homes? Ever try to build a nest as a kid? Impossible, right? Well that's what I was thinking when we witnessed first-hand the steel beams that give this "National Stadium" its distinction.

Inside, not eggs or chicks, but a sea of humanity cheering joyfully and politely. For the track and field events of the Paralympics all (or at least most) of the 80,000 seats were "General Admission." Could you imagine this at Giants or Ravens Stadium? A near capacity crowd (the stadium holds 100,000) not cussing opponents but cheering on all the athletes (Of course a little louder for the "home team." Just ask Steve about his "Zhongguo Dui Jia You" cheer that fired up our section.). And it could have been any section. See a few people get up and you can take their seats. Front row, back row. Anywhere you like, mei guanxi (no problem). This was quite a different experience from what I'm used to.

Now for the competition...javelin, shot-put, and long jump on the periphery. Main events like the 400m and 5000m races were the attention grabbers. The wheelchair races were unbelievably fast and exciting but the most compelling race we watched was the 5000m finals that was run by blind athletes. (They have a runner who can see attached to them at the wrist). The highlight came in the last 200m when the record-setting Kenyan was passed by a Chinese runner. The Chinese runner literally sprinted by the Kenyan and won by a huge distance. The crowd went absolutely wild. The sound was deafening.

Since there were so many events taking place and many competitions in the "finals stage," we were able to see a nice number of medal ceremonies. It was very moving to watch the expressions of the athletes when their country's flag went up the specially designed poles (at the top, fans blew the flags so they stood straight out) and their anthems played. Time and time again, everyone stood respectfully as the national anthems played beautifully through a sound system that probably rivals the Met.

All in all this was a very different experience from the ping pong competition we experienced yesterday. At the Birds Nest, the intimacy of the Peking University Gymnasium was replaced by the thunder of the flocks. I feel fortunate to have been able to attend both... now if only we can drum up some Water Cube tickets...

~Desi

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