With 10 days until the Olympics commence in Beijing, half of the city’s up-and-coming establishments are exactly that, “up-and-coming” but have yet to arrive. In the three and a half weeks that I’ve been in the capital city, remarkable change has already taken place at the Olympic venues and retail stores in preparation for the expected 500,000 visitors for the Games. Transition for Beijing is a cornerstone for this city’s businesses, cityscape and philosophy, sometimes best reflected in a simple sign hung in a store window that reads “coming soon.”
My Olympic assignment is at the Wukesong Culture and Sports Center which is home to the baseball fields and the basketball venue. The BOCOG (The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad) has posted that the venues are ready for pre-Olympic events, but final touches are still being made. Every day that I go into training, new flags are flying among the area’s massive compound. Window decorations are being displayed and cleaned. A constant crew of grounds workers are working to perfect the landscaping to ensure that no flower or leaf is out of order. There’s no doubt in my mind that the venues will be ready to host events for the Games.
On the other hand, the hordes of retail stores and similar establishments catering to tourists and business travelers that are adorned with the “coming soon” sign may or may not make the cut for the expected Olympic rush. Designer stores home to Gucci and Prada have opened around the Dawanglu area in the past weeks in a timely fashion. Farther North, around the Sanlitun area, the up-and-coming The Village shopping complex has only a fraction of its stores open for business. Walk there around 4 am (which I have) there’s night staff working around the clock to get the doors open and cash in on the Olympics money-making opportunity. One new store, UniGlo, has gone from fresh paint inside its windows, to boxes and clothes on mannequins in window displays all in a week’s time. Other stores, like Levi’s, Nautica, Artini and American Apparel have their windows completely covered leaving potential patrons no indication of when the store will be open for business. This is the same complex home to the first Apple store in China and Adidas’s flagship store as a major sponsor of the Games. The popular Sanlitun bars surround this soon to-be shopping mecca of the city.
Beijing, and China for that matter, are up-and-coming to the world. Only time will tell what businesses make the Olympic red carpet deadline to change the “coming soon” signs to “open.”
1. WordPress is blocked in China but proxies are available and rss feeds still work
2. I can’t approve comments or post pics in my postings, but check out my flickr pics and keep the comments coming!
3. Coming soon: the next blog will be on my bungee jump experience in China!