The Olympic Games are less than three weeks away and Beijing is spiffing up. When you have a workforce of over a billion people you can get lots done in a short time. Every day the city transforms itself more and more. Signage has gone up from one end of town to the other. You drive over logos in special Olympic lanes, see Fuwas and banners flapping in the wind and pass huge floral displays that have been planted at major intersections. You can not turn around without being reminded the Olympics are coming. There are so many people cleaning, planting flowers and scurrying about to get the city ready. The air is even clearer and this coming week traffic will lighten up as odd/even license plate restrictions keep half the cars off the road.
Days are busy indeed, but at night Beijing slows down and that is my favorite time. I love to walk about in the evening. In my neighborhood, women gather together on benches to visit and fan themselves. Men with their shirts rolled up to show their exposed bellies sit around, smoke and play board games. Stylish young couples fill restaurants and children hang out with their grandparents in the alleys around their homes. Squat legged dogs putter about and now and then you come across a litter of puppies. One of my favorite scenes is the many people who show up every night outside the Outback Steakhouse near Worker’s Stadium for ballroom dancing. The whole world seems to come to the street. It’s an Olympic city for sure but it is still very much Beijing and those who are coming to see it are in for a treat.
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