Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Beijing's It Place
Today the Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympics (BOCOG) took the media to see the Olympic Village north west of the city.
The compound is just north west of the National Stadium, or Bird's Nest and it's a series of 42 buildings that will house 16,000 athletes, coaches and officials during the Games.
However, before the field trip, an unprecedented number of journalists crammed into the media centre in Chaoyangmen to hear BOCOG official Yu Debing vaguely describe the Olympic Village, including extraneous figures that don't add up to an exciting story.
Liu Rong, of Guo'ao Investment Company that built the village, followed by giving a power point presentation. It was supposed to give supplementary information explaining why these buildings were green, using solar heat technology to generate electricity, recycling wastewater for watering plants, and double-glazed glass windows.
Someone needs to give her a lesson on power point. The first one would be to put less words on each slide because the people at the back can't read them all. The second lesson would be to make all the slides bilingual, not all English on one slide, and then all Chinese on another.
After the one-hour presentation the media were only allowed to ask three questions. The first one was from a foreign reporter asking about security -- what measures are being taken and can athletes freely move from one apartment building to another?
Yu said anyone entering the Olympic Village would be checked for security and after that they can go anywhere they want in the compound.
The next question from Reuters was how much the Olympic Village cost and with celebrity athletes coming to the Olympics, would they be treated differently.
Yu immediately replied all athletes would be treated equally. As for the second question, Liu said not all the costs had been calculated so they didn't know the total cost of building the Olympic Village.
The last query was from a Chinese reporter, so thrilled to have an opportunity to ask a question. He said during the Atlanta Games a Chinese and American athlete struck a friendship and so what was BOCOG doing to foster a friendly atmosphere in terms of entertainment in the village?
Yu was more than thrilled to answer this relatively easy question. He said an Internet cafe would be set up in the village, as well as sports activities, games and entertainment.
Again not very specific.
Finally the media boarded buses and 45 minutes later arrived at the compound. They were shuffled into the showroom, which was actually created for prospective buyers. There were two impressive-looking models of the area and luxurious couches complete with coffee tables and candies for buyers to lounge around and ponder their potential big purchase. But when reporters had questions, the staff didn't have the answers which annoyed many media outlets.
So reporters had to swarm around Yu who had to answer all the questions, including how many units are in the village (9,933) and how many buildings there are (42). He got exasperated when reporters kept asking for these numbers over and over again.
Two units (again for prospective buyers) were opened for media scrutiny.
Overall the units are quite luxurious-looking and with some nice furniture, these apartments can be very cool places to live in.
However, it's surprising to see in the bathroom there is no shower stall and so despite having a shower curtain, the bathroom floor will be wet, and slippery.
Some of the bathrooms were quite large, while others were also equipped with handle bars for the disabled.
Right now the place looks more like a dorm, with institutional-looking closets and bedside tables. Some of the beds even had added on mattresses of about a foot for extra tall athletes. However the mattresses didn't feel very comfortable.
Each unit had a small two-foot wide balcony so the hibachi better be small for mini barbecues.
Because the units were relatively small and a large number of reporters wanting to check out the place, a man kept shouting for people to leave if they finished seeing the units. Not quite hospitable.
After the Olympics and Paralymics, the units will be sold on the market. When asked the price of the apartments, the staff claimed they didn't know. But as the first and only housing complex in Beijing that offers potable water, the Olympic Village will definitely be hot property.