1. September 2018. Strolling down Beijing’s expansive, largely deserted Olympic Green and it’s hard to imagine this was once the epicenter of the biggest sporting event in Chinese history. For it was right here, 11 years ago, that the 2008 Olympics burst to life with a dazzling opening ceremony that still stands as one of the most watched TV events ever. Today The Green (actually a giant stone boulevard decorated with pockets of greenery) has the feel of a radiation zone, despite the fact that it holds some of the city’s most iconic structures and popular attractions. The collection of huddled UFO-like needles in the background of this shot is The Olympic Tower, with its five observation decks offering stupendous city views. Entrance is a pricy 170RMB (£19/€21.50/$25).
2. September 2018. I’d come here with my old friend and former student Lily, a Beijinger who like me was excited to be exploring the area for the first time. It was a moderately smoggy morning, which actually enhanced the apocalyptic feel of the green as we made our way. This curious-looking building is Ling Long Pagoda, home to China’s International Broadcast Center. Its six triangular shaped pods are actual studios and apparently the BBC occupies the second one from the bottom.
3. September 2018. The Green also features a pretty albeit understated Sculpture Park with benches, resting stations and a snack booth. This installation by Zhu Shangxi is called ‘Love Sculpture’ and has an accompanying plaque that informs visitors: “Two couples sit face to face on a suspended bench and they are embracing each other as if the world in front of them has vanished”.
4. September 2018. There are about eighty sculptures scattered about. This handsome row of relay women is titled ‘Passing the Olympic Flame’, with a rallying cry of “higher, faster and stronger”.
5. September 2018. The Olympic Green also houses The National Indoor Stadium (used for gymnastics, handball and basketball), as well as a tennis centre and archery & hockey fields. You’d probably need two full days to properly investigate everything on offer. As it was Lily and I decided to pick out the green’s two most iconic sites, so look out for my upcoming 5s on The Bird’s Nest (National Stadium) and The Water Cube (National Aquatics Center). Even if you have no interest in entering any of the sights The Olympic Green is well worth a peaceful stroll just to get away from the crowds and take in all the eye-catching buildings. The Green is free to enter and accessible via the subway’s still-shiny Olympic Line 8. Jump off at Olympic Sports Center, Olympic Green or South Gate of Forest Park and consult one of the many board maps.
Want to delver deeper into China’s infinite travel opportunities? Then why not take a look at my travel reports from all over the country.