Beijing 2008: A Russian perspective
The Olympic spirit is everywhere in Beijing. Even far from the sports venues, you can still feel that the city is hosting the Games.
I'm not just talking about clean streets, new buildings, good roads and sparkling hotels. The Games add another dimension to Beijing, making it more energetic than I can ever remember and giving people here a fresh view of life. I'm sure that the same thing will happen in my native city of Sochi in 2014.
Fans of all ages have turned out to celebrate the Beijing Games I have been looking closely at Beijing life and want to share my impressions with you.
Chinese people are very friendly. This more than makes up for the occasional lack of strong English speakers. But some of the communication difficulties result in funny moments. For example, I spent 15 minutes explaining to a taxi driver that I wanted to go to the Great Wall where the cycling competitions are taking place. After getting nowhere in English, I started to speak Russian and it rescued me. The driver actually understood Russian better than English!
It is quite easy to get around Beijing during the Games. You can use buses and the underground. Moreover, it is free for members of the Olympic family. The Chinese have constructed a special underground line to Olympic venues. It's a great way to ensure you're on time and not held up in traffic, even with the dedicated Olympic lanes on roads set up for cars.
Right now in Beijing they are enforcing a traffic reduction rule: cars with an even registration number can go out on the even dates of the month and vice versa with the odd numbers. The result is simple: half the cars on the roads during the Games. But even so there are occasions when the traffic is heavy - especially when everyone heads for the Olympic Green at night, such as after Usain Bolt won that incredible 100m gold.
Road restrictions have helped to ease traffic in Beijing Recently I went with some colleagues to see one of the women's field hockey matches. Although I found the sport quite unusual, the most incredible thing about the day was seeing a group of people in the stadium wearing matching T-shirts. We found out that these people had helped to build the Olympic venues in Beijing.
I was very touched by the attitude of our Chinese hosts towards these people who had played a very important, but often overlooked role in the staging of the Olympics. We too must not forget the people who help make our Winter Games in Sochi come to life.
I also believe that the Games are reflecting Chinese culture well. The country's style and tradition is everywhere, from the opening ceremony through to the competition venues themselves. A few days ago I found a cultural showcase in the middle of the Olympic Green called "China Story", where you can learn about the history of China, local life and even try to write Chinese characters. Of course, it's difficult to learn, but it's interesting to see your name written out in Mandarin.
Naturally, I'm following the performance of Russian athletes closely and was very proud of the performance of our female tennis players, who managed a clean sweep of gold, silver and bronze in the individual competition. I was really impressed by the Russian fans who had travelled from all over our country to watch the matches in Beijing. Some guys from Novosibirsk even stretched out a big 'Russia-Novosibirsk' flag along the whole stand!
Most didn't know who to support in the final - Elena Dementieva or Dinara Safina! In the end they supported both, calling to Safina when she was losing: "Stand firm!" and when Dementieva lost form: "Lena, we are with you!" So to be at the Olympic final with that kind of atmosphere and watching two Russian athletes, was a real privilege.
read more | digg story
Dmitry Chernyshenko, who heads the organising committee for the Winter Olympics in Russia's Sochi in 2014, is writing for the BBC from Beijing.