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03/05/07 - That Well Known Olympic Sport, Tug-of-War

Beijing 2008 Logo

As Beijing gears up for next year’s Olympic Games, the government and the nation are pulling together to prepare the city for the occasion. The Games are of huge importance to the country, both politically and economically. They provide a high profile stage to show the world how far China has developed in recent years and are a valuable tool with which to unite the vast population.

Therefore, the government and Beijing authorities are constructing stadia, throwing up sky-scrappers and renovating all of the city’s historical sites in order to impress next year’s mass influx of foreign leaders and businessmen.

Meanwhile, lower down China’s social hierarchy, myself and the other teachers at BIGC have been contributing by taking part in a tug-of-war. A valuable stage of the preparation process, I think you’ll agree.

Sports Day

Last Saturday was the annual sports meeting at the institute and I was told to arrive at 7.40am wearing the rather fetching track suit that I had been issued with. I thought this was a cruel way to mark the start of the May week holiday, however I dutifully turned up (10 minutes late) and discovered hundreds of teachers and thousands of students congregating around the sports ground.

The atmosphere was very festive as some groups were practicing their marching while other people were handing out helium-filled balloons. I found the whole experience enjoyable if quite confusing so I just followed my English-speaking teacher friend and did everything he did.

We all marched around the running track. I say marched, there was marching music blaring out of the speakers, but it would be more accurate to describe it as meandering around the ground. I’ve seen more in time marches in an infant school playground.

Once the opening ceremony had finished, the students began competing in all the traditional track and field events, while us teachers probably had more fun competing in “sports” such as skipping and standing jumps. I think my favourite event was the bike time trial in which the winner was the person who completed the course in the slowest time. Not easy.

A Banquet

Friday was also a good day as I had finished all my classes prior to the May week holiday, so all I had to do in the morning was drag myself out of bed and to a nearby hotel for a banquet that was being laid on by the university at midday. I had been starving myself for the previous 24 hours in preparation for the occasion, so I was more than a little bit peckish on arrival.

The banquet was intended as a welcome to the foreign teachers, and, despite being a couple of months late, was good fun. There was the usual small talk about where I’d learnt to use chopsticks and whether I’d heard of various world famous Chinese sports stars, however as planned, I ate my own body weight by consuming every Chinese dish under the Sun. Afterwards, myself, one of my English teacher friends, Li Li, and one of the part time foreign teachers who comes from Cameroon went for a massage at a place where all the masseurs are blind.

A Massage From A Blind Man

Blind people are meant to give the best massages as their sense of touch is more acute than fully-sighted people. This means they are better at feeling for knots and tension in your body. I would have to agree with this as the massage felt great, particularly as it only cost 25 Yuan (under £2) for 45 minutes.

The day then got even better as I rushed into town to the New Zealand embassy. I had met the New Zealand education counselor at BIGC a week earlier and he had invited me to a “social gathering” in the bar they have within the embassy complex. It was great fun as I met some interesting Kiwis and bantered them by rustling up the most clichéd Lord of the Rings questions I could think of.

The party only lasted a couple of hours but I ended up being invited back to one of the diplomats apartments along with a couple of other Kiwis, where we ordered pizzas, drank wine and as the evening progressed and the alcohol flowed, we came up with solutions to the world’s problems.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get home until gone 2am, which I’m sure didn’t enhance my performance in the slow cycling competition the following morning. Ah well. That’s one gold I won’t be bringing back to the U.K. after next year’s Olympics.

What Happened To Spring?

We seem to have skipped spring over here in Beijing. A few weeks ago I was living in my ski jacket and long underwear, whereas over the past week the temperature has risen to over 30 degrees centigrade nearly every day and I can’t seem to wear few enough clothes. Saying that, stripping off isn’t helping my seamless integration with society as most of the Chinese are still walking around in jumpers. The loonies.

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