Ever lay awake at night wondering: “after the athlete has thrown the discus all that way, how does it get back to the ring for the next competitor to throw ?” No? Well I have, and last night in the Bird’s Nest I saw the answer. A remote-controlled, rocket-shaped, red car.Now, imagine you are one of the hundreds of thousands of patriotic volunteers who’ve been successfully created to serve the Beijing games. You arrive on your first day for training wondering what your job’s going to be. Will i get to hold the bins open for the press guys to throw away their burger wrappers? Will I put people’s toast on? Will I get to stand at a door all day and say “Ni Hao” a lot?
Maybe, if I dare to dream I could be one of the people who runs out with a mop to wipe away the sweat on the court during the handball?
Then you find out : you , son, will be operating a fleet of big, red remote controlled cars on the infield of the national stadium in front of 91 thousand people. You’d think all your birthdays had come at once.
The stadium is beautiful- and oddly graceful. It’s become the iconic image of the games , which will be just as the authorities would like it. Without wishing to sound like a whingeing hack, the food leaves something to be desired. Ok, i do sound like a whingeing hack, but 4 small hot dog sausages served in a cup does not a sporting feast make. And i’m missing my usual chicken balti pie at Upton Park, for this?
During the evening a Chinese heptathlete won her heat of the 200 metres – the roof of the stadium was raised just a few inches by the roar of the crowd. I’m no expert but I don’t think she has a prayer of winning the heptathlon, but it made me think just how noisy the place will be on “Liu Xiang night”.
And so much for the “green games”: after every event we were all handed screeds of paper with stats, quotes and analysis. By the end of the evening I had 40 sheets, whether I wanted them or not. But the alternative of course is to give us free internet access, and that would never do.
But it was another “Good games, bad games” day. Following on from what I wrote yesterday, my colleague Rebecca went to interview a dissident, with the guest’s permission. She waited at the appointed time outside a restaurant where she was photographed, filmed and after waiting an hour, followed when she left.
Another potential interviewee told her on the phone that he had “no time” to talk to her. A minute after Rebecca called him, he was phoned again and someone told him “we thought we might come and see you- you’re not expecting anyone are you?”
One of our interpreters “David” is very jittery. He says that every cab in Beijing is bugged and has cameras (you can see them, but this story has been dismissed as an urban myth by the press here). He says his phone doesn’t work properly any more. We’ve decided to pay him, but not use his services as we don’t want to cause any more stress.
Let’s make this clear; nobody thinks they are under a genuine, physical threat, but there’s an air of menace – it may just be a simple way of keeping us in check, not backed with any intent, and sometimes it works. Since yesterday, every time we’ve got into a cab, the driver’s made a phone call. Of course, it could just be a coincidence, and why would he need to make a call when his cab is bugged anyway ?