After touring around the Forbidden City and the 798 district, we boarded our coach and headed to the Beijing Olympic Park! I LOVE visiting Olympic stadiums! I’m fascinated by the world stage these venues have. The stadiums themselves are usually impressive, plus the history that’s made inside of them is so exciting! (Remember our fun Olympic-Themed party to kick off the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies?)
But we were EXTRA pumped to visit the Beijing stadium because their ceremonies were the biggest and best the world had ever seen. We had a big party to celebrate the games in China back in 2008. I remember seeing the fireworks shoot out from the Bird’s Nest! I couldn’t wait to see it in real life!
But first, a little trivia… Every city has their own Olympic Symbol, do you know where the Beijing one comes from?
The little man is actually an interpretation of the Chinese character for “Jing” (as in Bei-Jing), which looks like this:
The park itself is huge, and we only had enough time to visit two of the most iconic structures while we were there.
This hotel housed a lot of the media and some athlete families. It was designed to look like a dragon. See the head on the left and it’s long body made out of those smaller four towers?
And here she is! The Bird’s Nest!
Sadly, the stadium is now in disarray. The inside is falling apart and they don’t really use it for anything. I think they hosted a few concerts and events there after the Olympic Games, but for the most part, I hear it’s pretty desolate inside. We didn’t pay to go into that one. But she’s a beauty from the outside!
Across the way is the infamous Water Cube. The place where Michael Phelps made history winning EIGHT gold medals in the pool! We were definitely excited to go inside of that one!
But the inside was…. um… not what we expected. For example this was in the main lobby….
I wonder what Michael Phelps would think about feeding fish with a baby bottle in the same venue he competed in the Olympics. Hmm.
If the main lobby had left something to be desired, surely seeing the main pool would make up for it right? We opened the doors to the pool and found this…. !!!???
Where is the pool???!! Where is the water?! Where are the diving boards? Look closely, and you can see the boards behind the false stage they placed where the pool would be! They had drained all the water and set up an expo hall for the Beijing Auto Show. Whaaatt??
We had a good laugh and pretended to be in the cheering squad for Michael. Go, Michael, Go! Don’t get hit by a car as you swim across the pool! Seriously though, what the heck?
Here’s a closeup of the diving boards and the edge of the pool. If you look reallllly close, you can see an inch of water at the bottom. So so sad!
Some of the original signage is still there though, that was neat to see.
Here’s what the pool should have looked like!
Regardless, you could still feel the grandeur of the Olympic Village walking in and around it. One of the highlights of our trip, for sure. I just hope they can find a use of those beautiful buildings!
(Some of my past Olympic Stadium visits: Vancouver | Munich | Barcelona | Athens | Los Angeles | Squaw Valley | Moscow).
After the Olympic visit, we joined a small group from our tour and headed over to a fun bar district on a lake. It reminded me of Downtown Disney.
We descended on a small pizza place where the food (and the company) were both wonderful. One of our favorite perks of traveling with a company like Contiki is the instant friends you make. We love sitting down to a meal chatting with others about travel, life, culture, politics and more. We had a great group on this tour!
A bunch of people stayed late into the night to try out the bar scene, but we opted to take the city bus back to our hotel. We were so impressed at how great the public transportation was all over China. Safe, easy and cheap. =)
We’ve still got one more full day in Beijing before we move on! Can’t believe everything I’ve posted so far happened in just the first two days!