Lawyers Not Necessary in Beijing
Our first trip to the “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing provided a truly unique Chinese experience. We had just moved through a set of toll gates and traffic was merging from all directions reducing the flow to a pace to a stop and go crawl. The sound of grinding metal was a clear signal something “not good” had happened. A few minutes later our bus driver opened the door and jumped out into the middle of the freeway and began arguing with the driver of a car whose mirror had just been crunched. In the US this job would be turned over to police, insurance adjusters and lawyers. But this was Beijing where traffic accident disputes are negotiated more or less on the spot. That doesn’t mean it is friendly – there was yelling, the driver of the car blocked our bus from moving forward and it appeared we might totally miss our planned tour of the Forbidden City. But a half hour later and several calls to insurance adjusters the two drivers flagged down a traffic cop and sealed the deal – it appeared our bus driver would pay some compensation for the damage done.
After Hong Kong we flew to Guilin and Xi’an; the former a “small” city of 600,000 and the later, midsize at 6,000,000. Both cities are major tourist destinations and far less intense than Hong Kong. Guilin sits on the Li River and Xi’an was the country’s capital for hundreds of years under several dynasties. A trip down the Li is a major tourist attraction as it flows through limestone mountains that rise up as sharp peaks against the sky. Boats of all sorts transport people for tourism, commerce and daily life along the crowded river. Running in Guilin here took us past a number of good sites and a lot of locals doing morning exercise that included tai chi, badminton and swimming in the badly polluted river. China’s long and rich history was the major theme of Xi’an, once China’s capital city, where the Terra Cotta Warriors bring 20,000 visitors to visit per day. The ancient wall and park surrounding the city provided an excellent place to run. During our trip, we have consistently heard stories of China’s rich cultural history and ancient days among the world’s rich and prosperous nations while rarely hearing of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. It was almost as if the message was China’s current resurgence as a world power is just part of the natural order of things.
Today’s capital of China of course is Beijing, where nearly as many people live as live in the State of Florida. They all seem to have great pride in these Olympic Games. You have probably seen the numbers by now, but China has invested an enormous amount of pride and money in these games and infrastructure improvements for the city. The country’s dedication to the Games reminds me of our own country’s commitment to putting a man on the moon many years ago. The results have been nothing short of spectacular as the city sky line has been filled with fantastic looking new buildings, new transportation hubs have been built and the most creative looking Olympic Venues ever fill the “Olympic Green.” The support crew is enormous and unfailingly friendly. Well, there are some pretty dour looking security guards hanging around, but even they, smartly dressed and without weapons, seem intent not to disrupt the enthusiastic experience. The city seems remarkably safe and its subway system provides transportation anywhere we want to go.
The track venue, The Bird’s Nest, is a beautiful stadium that is well designed. Our seats have varied from upper midlevel to nose bleed, but they all still give you a feeling of being there in the middle of the action. The concession stand lines are unbearably long, but a beer is less than a US dollar and everything else is probably an Olympic record low price. As of last night, we had seen three track world records, not enough to make Michael Phelps happy, but along with a bronze medal for Walter Dix it has been plenty to put big smiles on our faces.