Monday, July 21, 2008

Olympics are no big deal?

Based on the countdown photo at right (taken in the MTR), you might think that Hong Hong is excited about the coming Olympics. In my experience, not so much. Part of the problem is that HK plays host to the equestrian events, and "dressage" and horse-jumping are not sports people get pumped about. They rank somewhere around speed-walking in terms of fan enthusiasm. Don't get me wrong: Horse-racing is super dramatic, but horse ballet not so much.

I think that another reason that HK is not super enthused is the disconnect between it and mainland China. Being in HK really does not feel like being in China most of the time, except for little hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Causeway Bay and walks through the northern/residential part of Kowloon. This is an international city with a very different culture from Beijing. HK observes Beijing from the perspective of other/outsider. People are not as excited about China's chance to shine as Olympics host, as about how well Beijing is going to handle the Games, the media, and any problems that arise.

Beijing has cracked down on visas, making it hard for people to get into the country, and has their police officers going through anti-riot drills in preparation for the Games. We hear that their hotels are only half-booked and that tons of cheap tickets remain for many events.

I was supposed to get a peek at the equestrian venue on Friday, but the media relations folks changed the media briefing from the afternoon to the morning. Apparently, IHT and the New York Times were the only media folks who did not get the message. I was a bit suspicious about that, but I may be seeing conspiracy where there is only incompetence.

My latest creation at the IHT is a slideshow: Beijing's preparation for the Olympics. I was seeing really incredible photos by Reuters from July 16's opening ceremony rehearsal. I ran the idea of an Olympics preview past my web producers, and they liked it.

Food victory of last week: The aforementioned hole-in-the-wall Shanghaiese restaurant in Causeway Bay, where I had Chinese doughnuts dipped in sweetened soy milk and some kind of preserved meat in sticky rice. All thanks to my food guru, W.L. She has been my guide to good eating in this town. Everyone needs a friend like W.L. in a new town-- someone who loves food and appreciates a delicious, cheap meal.


Jeff Smith said...

Olympic Horse Racing? Are you sure?

Kashmir Hill said...

Modified-- thanks!