Guangzhou Asian Games
12.11.2010 - 31.12.2010 28 °C
Starting from November 15th, Guangzhou hosted the Asian Games. Since I’ve arrived, the world seems to have revolved around these games; everyone in the community has got involved to try and ‘better’ their city in preparation for the arrival of millions of people from all over Asia. My school was repainted, more than 30 chemical factories from all around Guangzhou were temporarily closed to clear the air (which made a HUGE difference), the sun was made to always shine as china chemically dispersed the clouds and controlled the weather so that it didn’t rain (yes, seriously), more English translations popped up around the city than before (including a ‘smoothie’ type shop just near me, which was brilliant because I could finally choose what I wanted to order rather than pointing randomly!), Asian Games commercials were constantly playing on tv, and security was at an all time high. Bag and body scanners were brought into all of the metro stations, which really jammed up the metro queues, especially around rush hour when lines were sometimes out of the station! They even made the metro free to travel for a couple of days, but they had to stop that for safety issues because there were literally millions of people more trying to use the metros. The sheer volume of people was just dangerous!
In addition, 60 thousand people became volunteers for the Asian games (apparently almost 1 million people applied, two-thirds of whom are students). They stood on every corner of every intersection, and at frequent points in between, throughout the entire city in their matching white and green uniforms. You could never walk more than 100 metres before seeing another volunteer standing at their position. They all worked incredibly long hours, and really did it as a kind of service to their country; it was something they were all very proud of. Somehow I can’t really imagine this kind of ‘do good for the country’ attitude prevailing in young people in American or in England. When we’d go to the games, even with gazillions of volunteers walking around everywhere, we still seemed to be the centre of attention as we were asked for numerous photo requests!
When the tickets to the games came out a few weeks before they started, Roger was in charge of booking my tickets. I told him to book a few, and that I’m not really fussed about what I see. I was expecting maybe to see 2 or 3 events, but I should have known better! He proudly announced that he got 11 events for us both to see. So my weekends were fully booked over the two weeks of Asian Games! Typical boy, eh!
The opening ceremony was designed by the same guy that did the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, so it had high expectations, which I personally think it fully lived up to. A ‘green city’ was one of the themes of the games, ironically, because the day before the opening ceremony everyone in Guangzhou got a leaflet through their door asking everyone to keep their lights all day and night, especially if you have a flat facing the river. This is to help the pictures come out better, apparently. The city council also asked everyone with a flat facing the river to leaving their doors and windows open so they can make sure there are no snipers or something I guess!?!
Attending the games was always eventful. We had our pile of tickets, and could never really figure out where we had to go. One of our first events, Wushu, actually ended up being very close to Hong Kong! The stadium was absolutely in the middle of nowhere, apart from a small village boarding the stadium, which was obviously meant to be hidden through the newly planted trees. When we arrived we were starving, so we went on a hunt for food to this village we could see. After numerous guards and policemen told us there was no food in the village, we refused to believe it after local people we met pointed to the village and said we could get rice there. As we wanted to appease our appetite, we walked down the little roads and around the corner when we were confronted by a new gate with a handful of guards policing who was entering and leaving the village. It came as a surprise when we were quickly ushered away and told that there was no food there. It was a really strange experience, and the only reason I can think to why it was blocked off is that they didn’t want foreigners to see poor village life.
So we went back to the wushu, with hungry stomachs, expecting it to be a sort of martial arts dance, but it ended up being a very violent boxing sort of thing, which we had front row seats to, as we were promoted for being the only foreigners in the entire stadium. In the first couple of matches, we saw a few broken noses and someone get passed out. When she was face down on the mat, obviously not moving, the ref continued, in typical Chinese fashion, counting to five just to make sure. Then the medical team quickly ran out.
I might have mentioned in other blogs that in China, the number 4, said as ‘si’, sounds like the word for ‘death’, so its known as a very bad number. This extends to the point that we were told we should never give students a mark with 4 in it, so if they get a 94, I should give them a 95. And people refuse to live on the fourth floor of buildings (perhaps this is why I was given a room on the fourth floor now I think about it!). Anyways, so there is a kind of china-wide hatred for Japan. I found that out in the first weeks of being here when I was told that Japan ‘exports’ their good people to England and America, while it ‘exports’ the ‘useless’ people to China, and was then subsequently asked to ‘gambeii’ to some sort of anti-Japanese saying. So it came as no surprise when the Japanese runners somehow ended up with the number 444 and 440! As if they could really pretend that was just a coincidence!!? While I’m on this subject, Roger recently had to act as a British business man in China, and his lines were literally ‘Get outta here you damn japs!’ ... Hmm... wouldn’t see this in England or America, would ya?!!
It was pure luck that we happen to be in Guangzhou the year of the Asian Games, and it’s helped me to see a whole new side to China that I otherwise would not have had the chance to witness. So for now I’ll continue to enjoy *Harmonious* *Green* Asia. That’s all folks.