Scenes From Beijing
SI.com's team of writers, reporters and editors in China will provide first-person snapshots from the Summer Olympics as part of our Scenes From Beijing diary. Our staffers, along with some fellow Time Inc. colleagues, will contribute items through the end of the Games.
Sun., Aug. 24
The Olympic spirit is alive at any age
BEIJING -- It is a professional badge for journalists at every Olympic Games: Write a column or a story that attempts to capture the real host city, the mythical place that offers insight into the soul of a people.
If the Summer Games were ever held in New York -- heaven help us -- the subway would be an easy choice for the canon. In one of our earliest days here, David Epstein, Rebecca Sun and I rode the Beijing subway from our hotel to Tiananmen Square. The subways were fast, clean and cheap, and volunteers were everywhere. But the influx of people -- at least on the day we rode was so overwhelming that each of us were jostled around the subway car like a piñata. Our Olympic badges, among other Western traits, made us stand out like bad fruit. It was an interesting sociological moment, if nothing else.
At one of the transfer stations (Dongdan) on the way to Tiananmen, we chatted up a father and his little boy. The conversation was short and choppy but their exuberance over the Games was not lost in translation. Our next subway came quickly and we forget to ask the boy his name. Rebecca suggested we call him Di Di, which means "Little Brother" in Chinese. Somehow I'm thinking his father is letting him watch the Closing Ceremonies tonight.
Farewell, Little Brother. Hope you enjoyed the show.
Fri., Aug. 22
BEIJING -- Among the most talented Sports Illustrated staffers in Beijing is Mike Wolf, a senior systems adminsistrator who provides technology support for both the magazine and SI.com. Wolf and fellow tech wizard Phil Jache have been in China since July, setting up the SI offices and troubleshooting any and all problems. Over the past month he has chronicled his adventures in his personal blog Clinky the Boy Robot, which he has graciously allowed us to post here. Take a look: The dude has an eye for the offbeat and interesting. -- Richard Deitsch
Thurs., Aug. 21
On the scene with ex-Olympian Mel Stewart
BEIJING -- A member of two U.S. Olympic teams, Mel Stewart won two gold medals and one bronze at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and he held the world record in the 200-meter butterfly from 1991 to '95. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Stewart is now an actor and screenwriter. He will be creating video blogs about swimming in Beijing for SI.com throughout the Olympics. His Web site is Gold Medal Mel.
Here, Mel chats up former gold medalists Gail Devers (and her favorite cute daughter) and Gary Hall Jr.
Wednesday, Aug. 20
Let's get ready to rumble!
BEIJING -- Forget the Birds' Nest and the Water Cube. For the best competition atmosphere at the Games, head a few blocks west to the gymnasium at China Agricultural University, home to wrestling at the Olympics.
Under the leadership of venue presentation director and head announcer Ken Berger, a 20-person staff -- including co-announcers, DJs and video crewmembers -- keeps spectators pumped with a steady stream of techno, metal, rock and the occasional Chinese rap.
Here's just a sampling from the playlist:
Wrestling is the only sport here where music is played during the matches themselves, a feature Berger fought for. The Beijing organizers were worried about competition interference, but Berger, an experienced sports announcer and event producer, convinced them tunes would only enhance the overall experience.
"My vision of Olympic wrestling is that it's like a movie," says the retired Marine major and sometimes-wrestling referee. "There are exciting parts, parts when you want to sleep. I know when to talk, when not to talk, and the type of music that doesn't interfere."
Berger also did music production in Athens, where the Olympic planners' primary concern was getting rights to play the songs. In China, however, BOCOG wanted only to check the lyrics. Berger chooses the perfect for every moment -- when young American Henry Cejudo won the 55-kilo men's freestyle gold, he instructed his DJs to spin Thunderstruck by AC/DC. -- Rebecca Sun
Call it Hot Fried Wikipedia
BEIJING -- No. 305 on your menu, but No. 1 on your plate at the South Silk Restaurant, a lakeside bistro within hailing distance of the Forbidden City, is Hot Fried Wikipedia.
I cannot attest to its gustatory delights, having chosen to go with the exact menu of the accommodating Spanish embassy official who was seated at an adjacent table and who spoke excellent restaurant Mandarin.
(Ordering in a restaurant in this exotic locale is an exercise in infantilization. I feel empathy for all those young baseball players from the Dominican Republic, who, for the first year in the United States, walk into a place with American teammates and order "Same Thing," every day.)
As for the Hot Fried Wikipedia, my rule of thumb: Never trust anything that depends on diner's input. After the meal my companion, Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times, and I kicked around Tiananmen Square where we were greeted by a tall man hoping to have Kosovo recognized by the IOC and some giggling students who wanted to have their pictures taken with graying Westerners. We walked past Mao's portrait in the Forbidden City. The likeness is remarkable.