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The Olympic Village
2011.05.28

This photo is from the second day of my trip. Lacking any sort of story to tie it to, I didn’t post it. It was a “look-and-see” sort of day, the four of us fresh off a 14-hour flight and little idea of how to get around. Geoff, ever-reliable, has an iPhone app that translates directions from English into Chinese characters. We eagerly showed cab drivers his screen, did our best Mandarin pronunciation, and accepted the one-to-four ratio of drivers willing to deal with us.

The Olympic Village itself a strange place--equal parts parade route, World’s Fair, sacred space and half-vacant shoping mall. Deferred maintenance is already beginning to show on some of the monumental structures. Pollution has taken luster off the Bird’s Nest. The paint is beginning to fade and the water in the surrounding park is turning green with algae. Buildings are also being converted for commercial use. The Water Cube is being renovated into an indoor aqua park with slides, rapid pools, and lazy rivers.

There is an aimlessness with which people (mostly tourists) wander the grounds. Having entered through the security perimeter and trapped by their own sense of touristic pursuit, they look for the best spot from which to photograph of the Bird’s Nest. There is ample place to roam. The mutant-like scaling of the open space surrounding the stadiums are huge! Imagining these Stalinist plazas in the dead of winter, snow-dusted and completely void of human activity has an intriguing air of stillness, both exciting and depressing, that I can’t quite explain. As one friend puts it, “it’s interesting for all the same reasons that we go to horror movies. There’s something perverse and enjoyable about being made uncomfortable, at least for a few hours.” I’m not exactly sure that logic quite follows through. This is after all, a massive park in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities... and if you can’t tell, he’s into dark, uncomfortable places.