Monday, August 25, 2008

NPR Podcast with Betsy Ross "On the Front Row"

To hear the podcast, please click on the title above: NPR Podcast with Betsy Ross "On the Front Row"

Thank you!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: NOT the end

What a journey! After leaving Beijing we flew to Seoul, Korea for an 11 hour layover. We got in a 11:30pm and were all getting prepared to sleep on those not-so-comfortable chairs in the airport. As soon as we got off the place I could see us all jockeying for position to find a place to lay our heads. Then...somebody noticed the words Transit Hotel. I wasn't sure what that exactly meant but the hotel part appealed to me and you didn't have to exit the security part of the airport. Speaking of you have any idea what it is like try and check a backpack that has more electronics in it than Circuit City? And the can no longer travel with batteries in your checked luggage. I found that out leaving Beijing when they called me back to search through my checked luggage. Apparently the rule changed the day before we flew out...NO BATTERIES. They scanned 3 times and I had to find the batteries located in a camera I packed and two baggies carrying extra double AAs and triple AAAs. The worst part were the "unmentionables" that fell out while the male agent was riggling through everything.

The transit hotel was great. For $60 apiece, you could get a double room with 2 single beds, a shower, and TV. So we all doubled up and got about 7 hours sleep in a real bed. Priceless!

The trip back to the States was long but I listened to my iPod, watched 2 movies, and read a book. I don't sleep well sitting up but managed to doze a few times. By the time we hit JFK airport in New York, I was over it. With a 3 hour layover there, Megan and Mo got us all in the Delta Crown Room and it was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of JFK. Free eats and drinks and comfortable chairs. It was very nice. The connection to Cincinnati was slightly delayed due to heavy flight traffic but we landed early at 5:45pm. Have you ever been so tired you felt sick. Just when I thought I had already hit the wall...I hit a few more.

I got home and put on my jammies. I turned on the Olympics and got online to catch up FINALLY on Michael Phelps and other Olympic updates that had escaped us in Beijing. NBC had proprietary rights to the footage in Beijing so we could not pull up any of the videos. You could only do that in the U.S. Chinese television emphasized primarily the Chinese teams and athletes. So I was in heaven. I had seen many events live and in person so I could identify with the venues and the fans but watching at home was great too. Besides, I could DVR and rewind and understand the language.

I am ready for London 2012. Bring it on. I know people in London. They are going to get to know me a LOT better. But let's thoroughly enjoy the rest of these 2008 Beijing Olympics and appreciate all they have to offer. It's a ton and then some.

Bravo Beijing, it was amazing and I will be thinking about this experience and opportunity for the rest of my life!

Friday, August 15, 2008

USA vs Taiwan and hotter than pistol!


The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

These two facilities are spectacular. I was in the Bird's Nest today for Track and Field. Both venues share the same security checkpoints so we were able to see the Cube close up also but alas, couldn't get inside. Megan and Greg took some pics when they went in so I'll share some of those.

As for the Bird's Nest, it is aptly named. From a distance, it certainly looks like a nest. As you get closer, you get sense of how enormous it is. It seats approximately 95,000, so it is very large. But unlike our American football stadiums, the infield is much larger with the field events taking place in the middle and ends and the 400m oval track in the middle. There is plenty of staging room for several events to go on at the same time and several meters of room between the track and the seats. Criss-crossing steel girders create the pattern you see and provide the frame for the interior. When lit up at night, it is backlit red and the Water Cube a beautiful blue. They are about a football field's length away from each other.

Once inside we were treated to men's shot put, the men's 100m qualifying heats, the women's 800 qualifier, and the first two events of the women's heptathalon. There was a lot going on a one time but seeing Gay and Bolt run was awesome as well as Fountain in the heptathalon. Also going on was the men's hammer throw. For both the shot and the hammer, there were these little remote controlled robots. The officials would use them to transport the shot and hammer back to the athletes. I could use one of those at home for any number of things. Laundry, toys, garbage...

Anyway, after taking 5,000 pictures of everything we tried to find some swimming tickets, but it just wasn't happening. We decided that there were still things in the Official Olympic Store that were waiting for us to buy them. We took the Beijing Subway for the first time. Very fast, very crowded but better than the bus. Too bad it didn't go to the Olympic Village where we are staying.

Needing energy before the jostling at the Olympic Store, we went to the Oriental Mall for food. I opted for KFC with the Karens and Peg and Mo had hot pot. You really shouldn't ask but I'll tell you anyway. It is a boiling pot with a divider in it. One side is spicy and the other not so much. You can drop in raw meat and vegetable and things that defy description. Kind of like fondue.

As for the Mall and the street on which it was located, it would give Michigan Ave. in Chicago a run for its money. All the best stores along a beautiful street with fountains.

After eating, it was off to buy those last minute gifts. We're running out of time as we go to the softball venue first thing in the morning and then rush back to shower again (it is VERY hot and humid) and get ready to head to the airport by 5:30.
Shopping the Official Olympic stores is like trying to see how many people you can fit in a volkswagen bug or telephone booth. Arms and legs are flailing and you feel like "Flat Stanley" when it's all over. It's push or be pushed. It could be the next 'Survivor Beijing'. It wasn't my best moment. I shoved back...hard... and made it through the gauntlet with my stuff in tow and my head still attached.

I deserved a gold medal for sure.

Sadly, this will likely be my last post from Beijing. I cannot even begin to tell you all what this experience meant to all of us "Beijingers". We made new friends with our host family as well as getting to know the members of our traveling group better. We are in pictures of several Chinese that we'll never meet. Conversely, we will take with us snapshots of them and their lives that we could never completely understand but who capivated us nonetheless. We met on the other side of the world to share in an experience that knew no barriers. Be it language, culture, or country, we were all here to celebrate our love and appreciation of sport and its athletes of the world.

I'll leave you with the Bird's Nest today, there was an 800 meter women's race in which a very small country (I believe it was Jordan) had a runner who finished 15 seconds or almost 100 meters behind the second to last runner. As the crowd became aware that she was still running, all 95,000 of us from all over the world, cheered her on. The roar of the crowd for her was louder than that for the winner.

'Nuff said!!!

The Water Cube

The Bird's Nest