By Graham Morrison
August 8, 2008
Beijing is my fourth Olympics and it hardly seems four years since I was in Athens for 2004 Games. That might be because the process of getting here has been so time consuming. The accreditation process takes two years and all categories of accreditation are oversubscribed.
The forms go back with supporting evidence and six months on you get an answer. My accreditation type is ‘E' meaning written press for all competition venues. Then there is a timetable for booking a hotel via the organisers, and a flight. Paying for the hotel was an adventure in itself. I had to turn up at the Bank of China in Cannon Street with the cash. And after more form-filling, my precious piece of plastic arrived... an all-in-one accreditation and entry visa. I'd better not lose it!
The flight to Beijing would have been fine had it not been for the typhoon, which caused cancellations from Hong Kong and a seven-hour delay for the connecting flight. Hong Kong International airport might be efficient and state-of-the-art ultimately a departure lounge is a departure lounge. At least my baggage arrived with me. Checked into the hotel at 3.30am and and slept through breakfast.
Beijing is hot and humid: 28 - 30C during the day with 60 - 75% humidity. At night it is cooler, but not that much. Earlier in the week the skies were blue I'm told. But since I arrived there have been grey skies and reduced visibility. In a newsletter I saw yesterday, the IOC was congratulating the city for the major progress in tackling air pollution. At least the IOC is working with Beijing on the subject and the world's pollution scientists are said to see the work here as having ‘much larger ramifications beyond the Games' which maybe is code for even higher taxes for family cars and people carriers in London.
Apart from trying to recover from the travel, day one was spent trying to find out where everything, and everyone, was. I soon bumped into one-time Maccabiah athlete John Goodbody (The Times) and Julian Guyer, who is holding the fort for the main French press agency desk. Julian and I have decided to try out Dini's, the only kosher restaurant in town, when we can get away. In Athens the food was a nightmare and I ended up living on ice cream in the smaller press centres until I caught up with the kosher restaurant in the centre of town The rabbi made me a packed lunch every day. But Beijing is huge and getting to the aforementioned kosher eatery, or alternatively the Chabad house, seems an expedition. But yesterday in the ‘four-category-of-food-plus-McDonald's' facilities here I found grilled salmon steaks. Today I settled for pizza in preference to a choice of ham and pork or pork and ham.
After the opening ceremony I'll need to spend a lot of time searching schedules to find out where I need to be and when. Getting around is not too difficult but after a walk in the Olympic park yesterday I realised that the place is just huge. Although on the map everything looks quite close, that is deceptive. The main press centre where I am based is an office block big enough to accommodate a large multi-national company headquarters. The international broadcast centre is bigger