Friday, January 11, 2008
This morning domestic media were invited to check out the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium at Wukesong, west of the city.
Just off the fourth ring road, visitors have to walk through a construction site and pass by the Olympic baseball stadium before reaching a striking gold-coloured box.
The building is actually covered in hundreds of narrow steel columns that are wavy to create texture and according to one of the architects, movement. And each of the columns are perforated with small holes to allow natural light into the lobby area.
Inside, the basketball court looks like any other regulation NBA court that holds 18,000. The wood floor is actually made of wood panels from Germany that can be taken apart to make an ice rink. The architect didn't know how long it would take to create ice, but suggested it would take a short time.
Suspended from the ceiling is a 22-tonne collection of lights, four giant LED screens and speakers.
The Chinese national men's and women's basketball teams will have the home advantage being able to adapt to the court. And it's hoped after the Olympics the gymnasium will be used for NBA games.
The management company looking after the gymnasium organized the press conference, inviting a number of dignitaries for an inspection. They included the deputy mayor and Beijing Olympic officials.
They each gave different versions of the same speech, basically praising the completion of the venue and how the upcoming Games was such an historic event. Mercifully each speaker was relatively short.
Afterwards they wandered off on their own private tour and presentation, while media were forced to stay behind for several minutes. One of the press organizers gave instructions to reporters, saying that stories on the gymnasium were embargoed until the following day, and how the stories should portray the venue in a positive light. He even gave an email address -- a Yahoo one at that -- for media to submit their stories and that they should text message him when it was sent.
This being the domestic media he could dare to say that. With foreign media, he would be at their mercy.