Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Maosoleum and Olympics

Maosoleum, in T-Square

Olympic Torch

The Bird's Nest, 2008 Olympics, Beijing

September 9, 2008, Beijing, Tuesday

Vicki spent the morning packing and reorganizing the reorganization. I was determined to visit the Maosoleum and the Mao relics, so I took the taxi/subway, checked the camera, and got in line. It was 9:30 in the morning, but already there were a couple thousand people lined up. The mood was very different from the Wall. No exuberance; mostly reverence and evident pride and joy at being there. It was a cheek-to-cheek line, gentle pushing and shoving, but general order, especially once in the great Hall. Perhaps a third of those in line bought flowers to present, with a bow. Mao himself was as presented in the photos I have seen. Utter silence in the chamber as the thousands passed by. The relics area and the Chou and Deng rooms were closed, evidently (or maybe I just didn't notice them), and I proceed on to the next chamber, the gift shop, very tasteful and affordable memorabilia, but, still, a gift shop. Oh well. My own impressions of Mao are complex, and getting more complex. Like all the great figures of history, perhaps, his flaws nearly matched his achievements. If there is contempt for him in China, I have seen no evidence of it.

Our afternoon was spent in journeying to the Olympic zone, a special subway, all kinds of security, throngs and throngs. We had tickets for the Paralympics but were there mostly because we wanted to see the Cube, the National Indoor Stadium, the Bird's Nest, and all the rest. It was all overwhelming, especailly the Bird's Nest, where wer spent the next several hours about 20 rows up from the ground, in section A. When we arrived, the place was nearly empty, but as the afternoon turned to evening, it filled, literally, as 90,000 Chinese and a few foreginers cheered on the Paralympic shot-putters, javelin-throwers, 100 and 400 meter runners, wheel-chair relay race, and more. We were moved by the athletes, their achidevements and the obstacles they have overcome. But it was hard not to be more impressed with the Olympic facilities, the architecture, lighting, sound, scale, organization, and so on. The Bird's Nest is unlike any other stadium I have ever seen, especially the architecture, the comfort, and the technology.

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