Beijing’s Newest Crown Jewel
Few minutes away from Qianmen square via subway is the Olympic green. Right after Beijing’s event of the century in 2008, this became second most popular destination following the Great Wall. During the time of the Olympic events, we were in Hong Kong and pretending to attend the Olympics even though the only event in HK then was Equestrian. So when I got this chance to visit Beijing, I made sure to check out and see the actual event venue in flesh.
It was reported that total spending on the games was “generally as much as that of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games”, which was about 15 billion US dollars. Other sources, however, estimated that approximately $40 billion had been spent on the Games, which would make it the most expensive Olympic Games by a wide margin.
Thanks to the 2008 Olympics, the transportation system is way better now as compared to how it was before. Beijing’s transportation infrastructure was expanded significantly to prepare for Olympic visitors. Beijing’s airport underwent a major renovation with the addition of the new Terminal 3, the world’s largest airport terminal, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster.
Within the city itself, Beijing’s subway doubled its capacity and overall size, adding an additional 7 lines and 80 stations to the previously existing 4 lines and 64 stations. Included in this expansion was a new link connecting directly to the city’s airport. Also, a fleet of thousands of buses, minibuses and official cars transported spectators, athletes and officials between venues. After the event, these are still being used commercially.
The subway fare is RMB2 no matter how far your destination will be. This is something I didn’t know so on my way to the Olympic green, I was paying 2 yuans every time there’s an interchange. tsk tsk tsk.
Upon ascending from the subway, a huge open field and strong freezing wind welcomed me. I started walking and the sight of the bird’s nest shut me quiet. The centrepiece of the 2008 Summer Olympics was the Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest” because of its nest-like skeletal structure. The stadium hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics competition. Construction of the venue began on December 24, 2003 and cost US$423 million, just so you know.
I asked one of the guards to take a picture of me, mind you, I put it on auto but he insisted using manual.
There were crowds of tourist that time, but because of the vast open air, the place was still muffled quiet. I thought it was the perfect time to walk around and waste time lulling around while waiting for the spectacular night lights of the infamous structures. I sat down and started opening a book when someone poked me from behind as it almost made me jump-off the bench. A lady selling me key chains and glass replica of the stadium, which I eventually regretted buying because it was an additional 2.5 kg on my backpack.
And because I get easily convinced by charm, I also bought a couple of Olympic souvenir key chain at 20 RMB. Pretty much a good buy considering the quality of the product and Monette and I were long been looking for it. Until another one came selling me the same keychain at 15 RMB. After which another vendor sold it to me at 20 RMB for two. That’s it, I got ripped, FINE! Then another guy approached me and gave the key chains at 5 RMB. I got a total of 15 pieces all in all and I bought them at different amounts.
The National Aquatics Center or the “water cube” (which is actually a cuboid not a cube [NERD!]) is the largest ETFE structure in the world. The entire structure is covered with water bubbles made with ETFE or Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, also known as Polymer or Plastics.
FACTS: This structure witnessed the launching of the newly introduced faster Speedo LZR Racer swim suit and saw 25 world records broken during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The sight of the bird’s nest on my right and water cube on my left is so majestic and it became even more magical with the lights on, like humongous light-up toys. I stared for more than an hour until the cold breeze became unbearable, I packed my tripod and cameras and rushed off to the subway, it became painfully cold when I realized the subway entrance is 15 minutes walk from where I was.