January 1, 2008

In Transition: China Reconstructs Beijing in Time for Olympics

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Beijing is under construction. The city skyline is filled with construction cranes, and a drive down many streets features as many half-built buildings as finished ones. Visits to museums are commonly interrupted by renovations, while the ancient Forbidden City and Summer Palace – once the winter and summer homes of the emperor and his family – are being repainted despite remaining open. Construction is not the only constant reminder of the approaching 2008 Olympic Games. A large clock counts down to the opening ceremonies in Tiananmen Square, the site of the infamous 1989 student demonstration. Billboards and ads appear constantly, advertising both companies supporting the Olympics and the Olympic Games themselves. A giant sign was even placed next to the Great Wall — about a 90 minute drive from Beijing — reminding tourists of the 2008 Olympic slogan: One World, One Dream. Several Olympic videos have also been filmed and appear on television and billboard-sized televisions in public areas:

Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other tourist attractions sit in the geographic center of Beijing. Several roads ring around the center, so driving from one part of the city to another requires going around the center in a big circle. Traffic is endless, and public transportation is overcrowded even at non-rush hour times. (The subway only costs two rmb, about 30 cents, however.)

Click here for more about The Sun’s trip to China