We’ve been in Beijing for three full days now and everything is going well. We have practiced each day. The ice here is really nice. Its quite fast and has a lot of grip too which is nice. The arena is the same facility that was used for Volleyball at the Olympics. The rink was covered with a floor during the games. Because of the Oympics, the building has been renovated and is in nice condition complete with an upgraded gym that we have used for weights. Apparently it wasn’t always this nice so we are lucky. Today (Thursday) is our last day of training before the competition starts.
We have also had the chance to get out and experience Beijing a bit as well over the last couple of days. Tuesday, we headed over to the silk market to do some shopping for knock off designer goods. In the ever exciting world of the marketplace, you have to bargain with over zealous vendors who will grab, pull, hit and yell at you in order to get you to come to there booth. Everyone is selling almost the same thing and there are more English speaking Chinese people at the markets than anywhere else is China I’m sure. They see a tourist and immediately try to grab your attention and get a huge mark up out of you. The best way to get your price is to make them think you are interested and then walk away. This alone often brings the price down by about 100 yuan (20 cdn). If you ever find yourself in Beijing and at the market, the rule of thumb is to never pay more than half of the initial offer and 90% of the time you should play less than that.
Tuesday night we went out for dinner to a local hot pot restaurant. A hot pot is a basically a cauldron with fire in it surrounded by a ring of boiling water. You are brought big plates of uncooked meat and greens that you submerge in the boiling water until cooked and then remove them, dip them in a dipping sauce and enjoy. It was actually really good although the sauces were a bit weird. Our waitress was also hilarious. She was really concerned that we do it the proper way and found it hilarious every time a group of hungry athletes would throw a ton of meat in and then devour it in seconds.
the hot pot
Wednesday we had a the last practice time of the day (7pm) so we took advantage of the chance to go over to the Birds Nest and the Water Cube. After seeing these impressive structures on TV this summer, it was really cool to see them in person. They are truly spectacular up close. We were able to go in and walk on the field and see the enormity of the stadium from the middle. It is surprising how personal a stadium with 91000 seats can feel given the right architecture. The water cube was pretty neat too although we were told it is way cooler at night when they have a light show with the walls.
Usain Bolt's view during the Olympics
This thing is huge!!
It was nice to get to experience some touristy things while we were here. To often we travel into a country, compete and then leave. Even though what we did was very like any typical tourist it is still nice to experience what we can. But after a couple days of that, its back to competition mode. World Cup #3 starts tomorrow. I will be skating a 500m and a 1500m. I haven’t skated a 500m on the world cup since 2006 so I am happy to be doing one. I will try to do a summary of racing after each day. I have also posted a bunch more photos in addition to the ones here in my picasa account which can be accessed by the link on the right hand bar.
Lastly, good luck to everyone racing in Calgary this weekend.