Friday, February 19, 2010

The Beijing Winter Olympics

Avert your eyes for a moment from Vancouver. Glance across the Pacific and take a little trip back to Beijing, where a hangover of Olympic proportions is in full swing.

What do you do for an encore to the biggest, most precisely choreographed opening ceremonies in Olympic history? What do you do with an architectural marvel where the world record in the 100 meter dash was dramatically broken? What does the future hold for the half a billion dollar stadium known as the Bird's Nest?

Welcome to "Happy Snow and Ice Season!"

You may recall that we made a number of outings to the Olympic Green during our year of living in Beijing. In the months following the games, the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube were A-list attractions on the domestic tourist circuit, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors a day. But what to do now, with enthusiasm waning and national pride turning, for some strange reason, toward the 2010 World Expo?

Sadly, the Bird's Nest has been reduced to being used as a winter fun park. For $26 (not a trivial amount of money for an average local family), visitors can enter the stadium and, for even more cash, ski down a slope that is a whopping ninety meters in length.

Adding to the indignity of it all is the fact that it is not just this Western observer who is amused and disappointed by just how far the Bird's Nest has fallen. (Don't forget...We celebrated a great Balla family moment at the stadium during the Paralympics.) The Chinese themselves are taking a collective pass on the "Happy Snow and Ice Season." In a country of 1.3 billion, in a city of 17 million, the current visitor totals are running at 300 to 400 a day.

Enjoy the ride while it lasts, Vancouver...


Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Days, Kid Style v. Snow Days, Adult Style

It takes all kinds of efforts to put food on the table, literally and figuratively. Alas, the extended break had to one day come to an end...