No, this isn’t about the gymnasts.
The (Fake) Walls Come Tumbling Down
Tiger Temple reported recently about one of the unintended aftereffects of Beijing’s rush to make itself pretty in the run-up to the Olympics in 2008: the fake walls constructed to make buildings look better in areas of the city expected to receive lots of Olympic traffic have begun to fall apart.
First, a video of the area recorded before the Olympics, when the fake walls were still being constructed. You can see that the backside of the building looks normal, but the front is covered with green scaffolding as workers hastily construct better looking walls for the side of the building facing the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium:
But, according to Tiger Temple, the walls are already starting to fall apart:
Obviously, as far as evil goes, making fake walls ranks pretty low on the scale. Tiger Temple’s concern, I think, is that the Olympic committee took something that originally looked decent, and made it look good, but in such a haphazard way that less than two years later, neighborhoods look worse than they did before the Olympic projects started. As he writes,
All the disguising done before the Olympics has already become an international joke […] I think I have the responsibility to lay all of this bare, and make it return to its original, true state.
Winter Olympics in China
Elsewhere in Olympic news, Shanghaiist reports that China wants the Winter Olympics, but doesn’t mention a city. You heard it here first: Harbin will get it. The city has made an effort once before, but not a serious one, and last year it played host to the Winter Universiade, an international college athletic competition many felt was a sure sign the city was trying to prove that it can pull off a major international event. Just as Beijing did in the summer, Harbin pulled out all the stops, restricting traffic and creating special lanes on major roads in preparation for the event, and shutting down bars and clubs to keep the city from looking bad (read: drunk). Since everything went according to plan, the stage is very much set for a Harbin Winter Olympic bid.
Harbin is the obvious choice for the Winter games in China anyway, as the city is deeply associated with winter. It is nicknamed “Ice City” in Chinese, and is most famous for its spectacular Snow and Ice Festival, during which massive lighted ice sculptures dominate all the city’s major parks. Holding the Winter Olympics there could be a tourist bonanza for China, as the international crowds would undoubtedly also be drawn to the ice sculpture parks and the area’s many ski resorts.
(Full disclosure: I lived and studied in Harbin for over a year, and consider it to be one of the best cities in China, so I may not be entirely objective in my assessment of its merits).