Monday, August 11, 2008

Huat, Huat, Huat, Huat, Huat ah! (发、发、发、发、发!)

What were you doing on 8 August 2008, at 8:08 pm? Well, I'm in Beijing, and of course I was catching the much-hyped over Opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics Games (more on that later...)! It was a busy, hectic day for Wayne and I on this day, where fortunately, both our companies granted staff a day off to mark the occasion.

In the morning, we headed out to play golf (well, at least Wayne did, and I sat around reading magazines, and snacking non-stop to keep from being hungry)....Wayne's lately into golf and is busy practising his shots before venturing on the green one day, heh...

As the driving range is in an "ulu" area of town, we had to call for a cab to come and pick us up after we were done. It being the first day of the Olympics, and there being many, many, many kinds of traffic restrictions and road closures, there were lesser cabs than usual and Wayne had to walk a stretch out and hail a cab in to fetch me (same situation on the night before when I was heading from work to meet Amy Tee and John Millward for dinner - more about them later - I had to wait for about 20 minutes going from work, something totally unheard of in Beijing where cabs are in abundance! We even had to take the bus back to their hotel after dinner at Da Dong Roast Duck - horrors!).

By the time we got a cab, it was late so, we skipped lunch with the Millwards - we were originally scheduled to meet them at their hotel for lunch, but I was too hungry by the time we got home and wanted to take a bath... bad call to settle our own lunch as the Millwards raved about it - they are staying at The Opposite House, a new, swanky boutique luxury hotel right smack in Sanlitun area, and Amy had the privilege of getting a complimentary stay (through her previous work with Amex), and complimentary F&B/services throughout their stay!

So, lunch at the mediterranean restaurant, Sureno, was free of charge, as was their cocktails in the lounge the night before, as was their laundry service, as was their room's mini-bar, and as was everything else - how shiok can that be?! Only thing the Millwards needed to do is to critique the hotel room, service, food etc since they have yet to open officially (my dream job - get freebies for doing something I am adept at - complaining!)

We reached their hotel and went up to their very nice room (rooms have different themes there), where Amy forced John to lie in the wooden bath tub and pose as if he was in a coffin - hilarious! We ended our "stay" in the hotel with again, complimentary, drinks at the coffee area downstairs - the lobby is also very nicely done-up - their check-in/out are all entirely wireless/paperless, yet another nice touch to their already very-good service!

We bade farewell to the Millwards who headed off to the outskirts (see you next month, my dears, it'd be a nice reunion of the BBC - Blare Bitch Club - of ex-Public Eureka colleagues where Amy's the VP cos she's always so bitchy (hoot!), and me, I'm the CEO - meeeooowwww....), and Wayne and I took a walk around Sanlitun's The Village.

This place, or in fact, any other place in Beijing these days, takes on a completely new facade within a matter of weeks (or even days). They have many new (and nice) buildings, and shops, and we even visited the Olympics Hospitality Tent of Adidas (faux pas is Wayne was wearing a Nike T-shirt - haha!) - Wayne's ex-colleague, Robin, is working with Adidas, and flew in from Shanghai to be in Beijing during August (as Adidas is the official sportswear partner of the Games).

So, we got unrestricted access into the VIP tent and you see the backdrop of their award-winning ad? I personally like the TVC and print ad of this inspiring commercial, but read somewhere that with the sketchy faces of the people, it looks like a scene from the "Hell of 10,000 souls" - freaky but true (hehe!)!

Visitors could also get imaginative by putting speech bubbles next to the characters on the backdrop, but check out this one of somebody who is in CHINA but could not get the spelling right...(sheesh!):

Hungry me then had to bid farewell to Robin too, as we walked to the nearest fast food outlet, KFC, where poor Wayne had to queue for about 20 minutes to get me some snacks to eat (was tough getting a seat too)... throngs of people there as alot of people were in Sanlitun area to congregate and watch the opening on big screens with friends.

Still on the topic of food, we then headed on to our last pit stop of this "huat, huat, huat" day - Tim and Van's house - their relatives are in town for the Games, and we decided to join them to catch the opening together in the comfort of their home. In commemoration of Singapore National Day the next day, there was a Singapore feast with catered food from local restaurant, Lau Pa Sat, and we OD-ed on the likes of curry chicken, sambal kangkong, mee goreng, almond jelly...(for about SGD20 per person, though dessert was provided by the friendly hosts).

On screen, the opening (especially the countdown) was already quite majestic with more fireworks than the history of Singapore's NDPs combined (multiplied by 500x), but in retrospect, CCTV (the national broadcaster) did not do justice to the real magnifique of the whole session choreographed by Zhang Yimou. It's not clear, but some have put blame on the broadcast director of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (BOB), a Swedish; whilst others have attributed it to CCTV's own mish-mash of their own footages, which only they had rights to, with that of BOB's.

In any case, t
here were many, many important and "wow!" scenes that were enjoyed only by the audiences on-site, or better captured by other better broadcasters, so I won't even bother to give the link to local renderings, but instead those from Getty Images on BBC. There is a local blog posting that captures images that we poor TV viewers did not catch due to the lousy directorial skills - sheesh! Kudos are given to the NBC broadcast (which I caught on DVD), which obviously fared much better than its CCTV counterpart.

At parts where only an aerial view would do justice, CCTV chose to focus only on the sweaty faces of the performers, or on the bored-to-death faces of the Chinese politicians. Further, for those foreigners who did not know better, the appearance of the various countries' athletes was not in alphabetical order, but according to the number of strokes in the first letter of your country's Chinese name! Now, how would any foreigner know that - imagine having to hold your pee for fear of missing your country's short (in the case of Singapore, very very short) appearance?! And I won't even go into how the subtitling failed terribly (minuscule Chinese fonts with no English translations during the sequences; names of countries only appeared in English...).

One other conclusion as well about the opening - at sequences where we were debating if they were mechanically/computer-driven, they ended up to be operated by manual labor (i.e. it's cheaper, maybe free of charge, to have Chinese people moving blocks up and down, rather than to install a device that will do it for you - 1.3 billion people leh, am sure they can find many willing volunteers!).

An interesting fact to end this post -- on this day in China, there were other "records" being set as at least 314,224 couples tied the knot on this auspicious day of so many "8"s (or to mark the Olympics as well), a one-day record for marriages since 1949 (when the People's Republic of China was founded). Well, there's another saying that "88" is the colloquial for "拜拜", or "bye bye" auspicious or figure it out (I know in Singapore, it's the seventh lunar month, or the Ghost Festival, so maybe it won't be so auspicious, depending on which part of the world you sit in). There are other couples in China who even demand for caesarean births to coincide with the date, and have named their child "Olympics", or at least, the Chinese equivalent "奥运" (faint...).

All in all, a very eventful and purposeful day (in comparison to what I did on 9 Sep, Singapore's National Day - cleared up the last of the wardrobes in the house - the guest room's; and went for facial, for manicure/ uneventful...yawn...).

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