We took a day off today to go see the torch relay through Qinhuangdao. The town has been abuzz for weeks in anticipation of both the Torch relay and the 20 or so soccer matches to be played in the Olympic Stadium here. QHD is regarded by the Chinese as one of the most beautiful modern seaside cities in China. The streets are wide with median strips planted with multi-variety hedges interlocking and varying in heights. Lawns, flowers and trees abound.
The Relay was due to begin at 8.00am at Shan Hai Guan — where the Great Wall enters the sea on the northern edge of the city. The main stage was on the beach at the foot of the Wall where there was a colourful display of fan dancing accompanied by a loud band playing bugel type instruments. Simultaneously two red dragons performed on top of the wall while flag wavers lined the steps leading up to it. It was colourful and exciting, the crown gee’d up by the usual CCTV hosts. The usual officials then arrived giving speeches and sending the first torch bearer on his way. Ten torch bearers carried the flame from the beach to the gate of the Wall Museum, a distance of approximately 250m.
Police closed the street outside our apartment while we were watching this TV show feeling glad we had not chosen to try to see the show live in Shan Hai Guan, as it was obvious only performers were visible. We arrived at the Torch route corner in QHD to find approximately 5000 people, the street sealed with fences and tape and we counted 65 police on this corner standing at 10m spacings. There were also 50 plus plain clothes military type people lined up on both sides of the street as well as another 50 red hats of unknown origin. A policemen told us we had about 10 minutes to wait.
Our viewing corner was about 15km from the lighting ceremony so we expected to wait for a long time, but the policeman was right, 10 minutes later the first of the relay went past, three or four police cars followed by a bus carrying torch bearers who waved at us. This bus was followed by the torch support vehicles, police vehicles, two OB trucks, three or four buses carrying the travelling roadshow, 11 army trucks packed with uniformed and plain clothed troops and various press, TV, ambulances and other support vehicles.
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That was it. There were angry rumblings in the crowd — then mothers and grandmothers tried to explain to their children why they had seen nothing. We did manage to buy a torch relay T- shirt on the way home.
The 5km approach to the Olympic park near Bedaihei was the destination for this cavalcade of speeding vehicles. Their choice was obvious, there is sea on one side of the road, thick scrub, (good for hiding troops and two tanks) and being a type of peninsula it is easy to control access. The next 208 runners carried the flame along this road to the Olympic Park where the cauldron was quickly lit, unlit and packed off to the next day’s concert performance.
At no stage along this route were any of the public allowed access, we recognized many of the happy smiling TV flag wavers as wearing exactly the same clothes as those travelling in the back of the military trucks. We know of many Government businesses who had to have their workers lining this particular section of the torch route. They were of course hidden behind lines of soldiers and police both uniformed and in plain clothes.
The last four torch bearers were of course the Government Officials who started the relay that morning. Most others paid considerable amounts of money for their 40 steps of fame. The ratio of fat cats to athletes was about 15:1. Two worlds — One Dream is not a reality yet.
In 208 torches there were three failures. This is China.