Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You know it's Olympics season when...

  • Taxi drivers in the city are decked in a uniform of pastel yellow shirts and striped ties.

  • When you get out of a taxi, an aunty comes to you and does a short survey of whether you were happy with the ride (was the aircon on? did the driver speak properly? did he remind you to take all your belongings? does the taxi smell?)... and presents you with a complimentary pink face towel as a gesture of appreciation.

  • When it's much harder to get a cab since (i) the city is imposing the single/double-digit number plate rule to limit private cars, so everybody else is taking public transport (ii) those who have to take the train are forced to take cabs because the city has closed alot of stations for security reasons, or have such long queues to implement security checks that more people are getting late for work (iii) selected cabs have been tasked to stay empty as they ply the roads as they have been given implicit instructions to ensure foreigners can get cabs whenever they want (time for me to whip out my SGP passport...).

  • When the friendly greeting du jour and small talk is not about "have you had your meal?" or "it's a hot summer, isn't it?", but instead "do you have any tickets to the Olympic events?", or "is your company granting you leave during Auguest because of the Olympics?".

  • When in dry Beijing, and the even drier and hotter summer months of July and August, we get occasional rainfalls (thanks to rumoured cloud seeding of the city government who want to clear the air for the Games).
  • When your friendly neighbourhood DVD shop closes for "stock-taking" for the loongest time over this period (to avoid IPR issues).

  • When companies start granting vacations for 8 August to mark the opening day of the Olympics (and are realistic about how terrible traffic conditions will be). Some companies even allow flexi working hours or one- to two-day telecommuting in a week (not mine...).

  • When family members and friends from out of town start visiting and putting up at your already-cramped homes so as to avoid paying for exhorbitant hotel room rates.

  • When family members and friends from out of town always start or end their personal emails with something along the lines of "it must be an exciting time for you since you are there in the thick of action for the Beijing Olympics" (and maybe hoping you will offer them a free homestay...).

  • When those in my line of profession swing extremes - you will be super busy if you/your Client are involved in the Olympics; or occupy yourself with stuff you would normally not have time to do (like budgets, executive trainings etc) if you/your Client are NOT involved in the Olympics.

  • When any other Company, whether international/local, sponsor/non-sponsor, will attempt cheap shots at linking itself with the Olympics by using sporting images or phrases like "2008" and "中国加油" (China go!) in their communications.

  • When TV and radio stations do nothing but talk/play Olympics-related images/songs (I know I will be seriously relieved when this all blows over...).

  • When you suffer from Fuwa (the 5 Olympics mascots) overkill with memorabilia/souvenir shops sprouting up anywhere and everywhere in departmental stores (fakes galore as well in side streets and some touristy areas).

  • When you get worried if your kid's going to grow up in an over-competitive environment because alot of Chinese people want to have kids this year to aim for an "奥运宝宝" (Olympics baby).

  • When you know your country's own 43rd National Day Celebrations on 9 Aug pale in comparison to the Olympics opening on 8 Aug (Happy Birthday, Singapore!).

  • When I start blogging about the Olympics even though I am seriously sick of all the overhype and the inconvenience it brings to me.
I'd always answered the question "so, how long do you intend to be in China for?" with a "well, at least until the Olympics", so I can witness for myself being in a host city for the first time. The time has swung round, so why am I not too excited?

Maybe it's too much overkill, with the 1,000-day, 500-day, 100-day, N-day countdown and Olympics songs playing till death etc, and as I mentioned, the inconvenience it brings to me as a resident in this city (in traffic-congested Beijing, they have designated some lanes for Olympics vehicles only, so imagine the further congestion it'll bring). Folks renovating their homes over this period have to contend with a lack of renovation supplies as they are restricting such courier of large goods into the city and prices are higher than usual due to a lack of supplies and transportation.

Before the Chinese government reads my grousings and decide to shut down my blog, it's not all a bad thing... the streets are cleaner, the taxis are cleaner and drivers more polite, public facilities/amenities are completed, security is beefed up for good reasons (there are seriously alot of saboteurs, so even though we have tickets, I am not going for any of them and will leave to Wayne and his parents to enjoy), and it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Below pic was taken almost two years ago when the Fuwas just came out...we had a visiting colleague, Tracy, from our Malaysia office then. Here's hoping the good things continue after August and is not just for-show-only to impress the rest of the visitiors, and that we have a successful (and safe) Olympics!

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