Welcome to Olympic City, or the city formerly known as Beijing. A magical city where everyone smiles and opens doors and finds chairs for you to sit on while you are waiting for the bus. A kinder, gentler, nicer Beijing.
At the airport, each person I encountered was happy to answer my questions, even those who spoke no English. (Which was most of them.) Those who did were clearly taught the language by Emily Post. Heck, even the police are smiling. Billboards are posted around the city touting their “smiling police.” And their drug-sniffing dogs? Beagles.
After a very nice jog through customs, a polite woman with a nice smile stamped my passport and motioned to another young lady who then escorted me all the way to the media bus parked outside. My arrival time of 2 p.m. must have been an unpopular one with the press, because I had the bus to myself. Mid-way through the ride, a young man from the BOCOG who spoke decent English came and sat down next to me.
“Are you having a nice day?” he asked.
“So far, so good.” I said.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“New York.” I said.
“Such a nice city,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Are you enjoying your stay here in our city?” he asked.
“Well, I just got here,” I said.
“But, so far, our city is nice?”
“The airport was nice,” I said.
“We have been working very hard on the nice,” he said.
“I can see that,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “Do you think I am nice?”
And with that, he stood up, walked to the front of the bus and resumed his post next to the driver, content he was doing his part.