Friday, March 21, 2008

A Potty Problem

It's 140 days to the Beijing Olympics and organizers are now realizing that a majority of the 500,000 visitors who are coming will be shocked when they see squat toilets in the spanking new venues.

After some 30 test events at many of the Games venues, this was the biggest complaint.

"A lot of parties have raised the question of toilets... We have told the venues to improve on this," said Yao Hui, deputy head of venue management.

And now organizers are rushing to install more Western sit-down toilets in three of the key venues.

He said the proportion of squat toilets versus sit-down will vary depending on the venue. But Yao said most of the ones in the National Stadium, or Bird's Nest "should be" sit-down style.

"Most of the Chinese people are used to the squat toilet, but nowadays more and more people demand sit-down toilets," he continued.

"However, it will take some time for this transition."

How much time?

When the Olympics is China's big opportunity to impress the rest of the world with its gleaming skyscrapers, state-of-the-art mobile phones and shiny new cars, they forgot foreigners would also need to use the loo.

And for someone coming to China for the first time, encountering a hole in the floor can be a shocking experience.

The other big surprise is that toilet paper isn't thrown down the toilet, but thrown in the wastebasket (if you're doing a number one). The plumbing can't handle that much waste in its system.

So if you are coming to Beijing for the Olympics, you've been forewarned.

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