Watts Happening

05th August 2008
It was my first day in the IBC (International Broadcast Centre) today. Walking in was like a flash back to Athens. It’s a huge square building which houses the world’s broadcast media, so it pretty much does what is says on the tin.

We actually go through security for the IBC at our hotel, which entails having our accreditation scanned and bags x-rayed as you would at airport security. In fact, security appears to be fairly tight in the hotel. Non-guests have the metal detectors run over them as they enter, we have to use our key cards to access the corridors to our rooms and there are security guards at the entrance to each of those corridors.

Some of the guards are embracing their British guests, greeting them, however bleary eyed they are, with a ‘good morning.’ Some deliver it with more gusto than others; catch them in the right mood and they also run across the corridor to open the door for you once the key card has beeped you through.

We travel on the media bus to the IBC, in the special Olympic lane; the road really does have the Olympic rings painted on it. Today we zipped past three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic and arrived at the IBC in 30 minutes.

Buses though, appear to be the same the world over. After a day editing swimming guides I left the IBC with Josephine intending to get the 1830 bus. Sadly, despite being surrounded by buses, our trusty steel steed failed to appear at 1830 and 1900. By this time Sue, Liz and Sally had joined our 'waiting for the bus' party and they managed to negotiate for another bus to do a drive by at our hotel, proving that good floor managers can fix anything!
Let The Games Begin
03rd August 2008
With luggage stowed and my seat taken there was only one thing left to think about. Who’s in the seat next to me? The answer? No-one. And next to no-one was Sue Boyd, so no Far Side character for me. What a relief!

Our flight to Beijing was a lot shorter than I was expecting: 9 hours, 2 films, 2 snoozes, 1 fish pie and 1 rice pudding long to be precise. The jury’s still out on the fish pie, Carl liked it, Josephine hated it and I ate half of it because I was hungry. Everyone agrees though that the rice pudding was very tasty.

Jim Neilly unofficially launched the Games on landing, when he held up his duty free, clinked the bottles together and announced: “Let The Games Begin.” Who needs an Opening Ceremony, when you’ve got Jim on your team?

We were escorted through customs by 2 smiley volunteers, transported to our hotel by a bus driver with a dubious sense of direction and were safely ensconced in our rooms 3 hours after landing.

A couple of hours later Sue, Josephine and I met up, bleary eyed and less than enthusiastic about being awake. Fortunately, the BA crew had recommended a Chinese café to us, which was literally over the road from the hotel. The food was fantastic so I don’t think it’ll be the last time we’ll be eating there.

Taking my responsibilities as tour guide seriously, I jollied my intrepid, tired team into a taxi so that we could see Tiananmen Square on our first day in Beijing. It’s a huge area, full of (mainly) Asian visitors and interesting to see. Our faces and accreditation attracted attention and we now feature in a number of people’s holiday snaps.

Having packed Josephine off to return to her bed, Sue and I went to an Acrobatic show in the evening. It’s the first time we’d seen a bicycle in a capital that’s embracing the motor car at a rate of knots, this one had 12 people on it.

First impressions of Beijing: It’s dominated by wide roads, tall buildings and doesn’t look Chinese at all in the majority of places. It’s clinical and lacks the colour that other Asian cities boast. I have no doubt that they’re going to put on an Olympic show to remember, but at what cost?