Sunday, March 2, 2008
The big event this weekend was the opening of Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport.
Musicians played and the first passengers to arrive received bouquets of flowers.
Described by the media as gargantuan, the airport is the largest ever indoor structure built. It's 2km in length, and the space equivalent to 230 Wembley Stadiums. So make sure you allow extra time to get to your gate.
Many describe it as a dragon taking flight, but I fail to see the mythical beast in the design. It looks more like a giant stingray. However it is very imperial looking, with its gold roof and red columns.
Some critics liken the experience of entering such an overwhelmingly huge space to the dynastic times when neighbouring countries presented tributes to the Chinese emperor. It's no doubt the statement China wants to make is that the country is big and strong.
It also probably wants to emphasize the fact that it can accomplish almost anything -- the entire project was completed from drawing board to the last lightbulb screwed into place -- in four years.
In addition, 10,000 people were moved out of the area to make way for T3 and 50,000 workers toiling around the clock to build the terminal.
Airport officials expect some 64 million passengers this year, compared to 50 million last year. That's because this airport will be servicing all the athletes, officials and visitors for the Olympics, and many more curious to see what China is all about.
So far five airlines, including some international ones started using T3 on Friday and others will join in during phase two at the end of this month.
The airport has become an immense source of pride for the Chinese, and while it's expected for people to be pleased to have a new functional building to use, the patriotism shoots way off the pride meter.
"We have won honour for the country, added colour to the Olympics and made a good name for Chinese civil aviation," said Dong Zhiyi, deputy general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co.
However, the Chinese wanted to take all the praise for itself and didn't invite architect Lord Norman Foster and his design team, and the British engineers who made it all possible in the first place.
It's a big oversight the Chinese can't avoid -- while they have the manpower, they don't yet have the innovation to really call it their own.