Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future
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For centuries, Beijing was closed off to the world, turned inward and literally built around the imperial Forbidden City, the emblem of all that was unknowable about China. But now the capital is reinventing itself to reflect China’s global influence, progress, and prosperity. When Tom Scocca arrived—an American eager to see another culture—Beijing was looking toward welcoming the world to its Olympics, and preparations were in full swing to renew itself.
Scocca discovered a city of contradictions—modern and ancient, friendly yet wary, bold and insecure. He talked to scientists tasked with changing the weather, and interviewed architects; checked out the campaign to stop public spitting; documented the planting of trees, the rerouting of traffic, the demolition of the old city, and the designs of a new metropolis, all the while finding the city more daunting, and more intimate. Beijing Welcomes You is a glimpse into the future and an encounter with an urban place we do not yet fully comprehend, and a superpower it is essential we get to know better.
three-high human pyramid. It was more professional than some ball-spinning routines I’d seen at NBA halftimes. In the third quarter, China’s three-pointers began falling. A deep three-pointer by Sun cut the deficit to 58–48, and the arena began filling with noise again. Greece stretched the lead back out to fifteen, then held for the last shot, but the Chinese defense smothered the play. The Dream Dancers came out for “Proud Mary”: hair flying, bodies merging into a line, arms rolling, the
different character for dong from that used for Dongdong the cheering mascot. The class was on Lesson 47, which involved inviting someone to have tea. On the board were the words “jasmine” and “chrysanthemum.” The teacher was named David and was young, a little heavyset, with a buzz cut. “Try some of,” he read. “Try some of,” the class echoed. “Our wonderful green tea.” “Our wonderful green tea.” “Try some of our wonderful green tea.” “Try some of our wonderful green tea.” The word
countries . . . have shown very good strength in all these events,” Cui cautioned. Analysts for NBC, he said, had predicted 42 gold medals for the United States, and 108 medals altogether (“a very conservative estimation,” Cui said). Russia’s largest sports newspaper anticipated 122 medals for Russia. In swimming and in track and field, the most medal-rich areas, China was lagging—particularly in track and field, where there were “still large gaps between Chinese athletes and those athletes from
what about the individual, human side of the athletic program? A Wall Street Journal reporter asked the competitors to tell a little bit about themselves. Liu, the handball player, said that she liked singing and she had a blog. Wang, the wrestler, said his hobbies were reading books, listening to music, and surfing the Internet. Tong—a genial massif of a woman, much larger than the 185-pound, wrestling-scarred Wang—said that when she did not need to train, “I would like to read books, listen to
Chinese commentary over it. CSPN was not available to viewers in Beijing, but the studios were down at the south end of the city. I’d joined Ma there one frigid winter morning, as he broadcast one of the most boring matchups imaginable—Yi Jianlian and the lousy Milwaukee Bucks against the awful New York Knicks. People wanted to see Yi, even if there was nothing else worth watching about the game. The studio was cavernous (the largest sports studio in Asia, Ma said), cold, and deserted: no