Saturday, 2 August 2008
Not the most catchy title but we have finally arrived in Beijing at last. My first impressions on stepping off the plane weren’t too hopeful to be honest given that we landed in thick smog. I unfortunately suffer from asthma and had been a bit worried by the scare stories circulating about the pollution standards surrounding Beijing. The air had a stale smell of BO rather like walking around in someone’s armpit. Having said that the following day the smog had gone and we all had to get the sun tan lotion on. Haven’t had any asthma problems either.
The one drag is the jet lag though. I’m not particularly a morning person and don’t tend to function very well without my sleep, so given that we’ve been waking up to go training at what would be midnight back at home tends to make me a little grouchy and sloppy. I’ve already lost my sunglasses and forgotten my accreditation down to the course. In fact I was the only person to miss getting my accreditation validated on the first day.
As the Olympic village is a good hour from the course our team has moved to a Hotel just 5 mins from the rowing lake. It’s a bit of a concrete jungle but the interior is very stately and decorated immaculately from floor to ceiling in marble. The staff are unbelievably nice and helpful, and go out of their way to assist in even the slightest gesture. Going through a security checkout I dropped my camera on the floor to have it fervently presented back by a security guard down on one knee, head bowed, as if offering the sword of Excalibur. It’s very obvious that everyone here is very eager to impress and show China in the brightest light possible, the people I’ve met so far certainly show the effort and will to do that; they’re a very proud nation.
The more I interact with the staff and volunteers on the course the more this place does feel a million miles from home. There are many standards, rules or regulations that to us seem insignificant or ineffective but are carried out to the letter by the staff in the hotel. The nutritionist on the team, helping sort out food in the hotel, had asked the chef for some cups of salt. The usual hydration supplements hadn’t arrived at that point and we needed something for the heat out here. However, salt is regarded as an unhealthy product by the government so it’s use is strictly controlled. The chef had to ask the maitre-de who then had to ask the kitchen manager who then had to ask the hotel manager before finally a form was produced for our nutritionist to sign handing over full responsibility of the salt to her and her alone… it makes bureaucracy in the UK seem undeveloped.