Day Eight: Lucky Day

Today is my friend (and editor) Alison’s birthday. Since today is also our eighth day here, I consider this a sign she is about to have an extremely fabutastic year. Starting with a birthday lunch (I tried peking duck for the first time! It’s the most daring thing I’ve eaten in a long time and one of the yummiest things I’ve eaten since I’ve been here.) and a quick stop at the Yashow Market (a less-chaotic version of the Silk Market).

Then we headed back to the media center and I caught the bus to the basketball stadium, which is about 40 minutes away. Fortunately, the media bus system runs like clockwork. You’d think Switzerland was running this show. Unfortunately, Beijing is gigantic. The hop between venues makes the Home Depot Center to Staples Center commute at the X Games seem tame. But the venues themselves are absolutely spectacular. I don’t know why we don’t design stadiums in the U.S. more like these. They are functional, they are surprisingly practical and they are spectacular feats of design.

The basketball stadium looks like a rectangular building hidden behind giant blades of grass. Or, when it is lit yellow, like a giant box of McDonald’s french fries. Which reminds me to inform you that McDonald’s is everywhere. (And yes, so is Starbucks, if you’re not depressed enough by the McDonald’s information.) According to Alison and Jim, the french fries here are better than those in the States, because they still use the transfatty oil. I haven’t been that daring yet.

The basketball game was less inspiring than I’d hoped. Four years ago, Greece spoiled the U.S. team’s gold-medal plas, so there was a good storyline. But the game wasn’t exciting. The U.S. is still not shooting much, but they’re just too physical and fast for the rest of the world. The best moment was during a time out, when one of the Olymipc mascots fell while running off the court and struggled to wiggle himself back upright.

LIke most of the events I’ve attended so far, the stands are only about half- to three-fourths full at these “sold out” events. There are huge sections of empty seats and walking the Olympic Green is less like walking around Disneyland (as past Olympics have felt) and more like walking the backlot of MGM Studios. You walk past these monstrous buildings wondering if they are nothing more than a pretty cardboard facade. Rumor has it the IOC is going to begin opening up the Green to spectators without tickets to events so the place feels less like a ghost town. In order to do so, they have to shift the locations of security checks, so, in the end, this may prove too difficult.

After the game, I went down to the mix zone to try and get some time with the guys. Riiiight. When they finally appeared, one by one, I was so busy trying to avoid being trampled by my colleagues that I forgot to wave and yell out to Kobe how awesome I think he is. Fortuntaely, a member of the European press took care of that for me. Signs hang in every media area informing the press they are not allowed to take photos or videos of the athletes while in the mix zone. So, of course, three journalists snapped off shots of Team USA players as they entered the zone.

Hey, you gotta update your Facebook page.

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