An I-remember-where-I-was-when Moment

by Andrew Stein

Every generation has their I-remember-where-I-was-when moments such as when JFK was assassinated or when the Twin Towers collapsed. One of mine, whether dignified or not, is the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. I had gone over to my sister Julie’s and her then fiancée (now husband) George’s apartment in Noe Valley of San Francisco, George prepared delicious Chicken Abobo or Adobo or something that sounds similar to that for which I remember going back for thirds, and we started watching the Opening Ceremony on their new big screen TV using DVR until we caught up to the live–although technically delayed–broadcast. I had ventured there on the BART after work at my summer internship in Soma and was prepared for something spectacular.

olympic stadium statue

The ceremony lived up to expectation. I still recall there being 2008 of everything, whether it was lights, drums, dancers, etc. I remember the giant screen that they unrolled. I remember the dancer who had ink on his hands and feet and painted as he moved across a blank canvas. I remember people coming from the ceiling. I remember drummers playing so synchronously that I feared for those who failed to do so in training. I remember the little girl singer who had to lip-sync the words because the true singer wasn’t cute enough to perform. In others words, the event was more than memorable.

stadium up close

Therefore, although the Beijing Olympic Stadium might seem like a lifeless structure post-Olympics, it was high on my list to visit. In true tourist fashion with my map in one hand and my camera in the other, I worked my way to the Olympic Stadium via subway and foot. The openness of the surrounding areas near the Olympic Aquatic Center and of the Olympic Stadium made the occasion difficult to capture on film, or on memory card as the case may be, but this did not prevent me from tying. Also, on the off chance that I could get inside, I approached the stadium and found an open gate. After starting to walk through, I got pointed around the stadium because pointing was our only common language. For a small fee, I was able to enter.

olympic stadium chair

First thing I did was walk inside and find a seat. My mind started thinking about those Opening Ceremonies and all the other Olympic moments that took place within this building. The hair on the back of my neck stood up higher inside the Olympic Stadium than it had inside the Forbidden City. I thought about the athletes whose dreams came true after spending a lifetime of training and discipline. And I thought about that Chicken Adobo (or whatever it was), and how George had remade the dish the next night because he wasn’t satisfied how the sauce came out the first night, when I had gone back for thirds. I thought about how the 2008 Beijing Olympics was China’s way of proving its dominance to the world, and how similarly to the Forbidden City and all the great palaces around Beijing, these Olympics celebrated China and demonstrated its power.

olympic stadium stairs

Designed like a bird’s nest, the Stadium’s architectural details did not come through on TV as they did in person. From the staircases to the support beams, its free-body diagram seems like a nightmare to calculate. Making certain that all the forces add up to zero and that no member is under too much stress or strain is an art in itself when looking at a structure like this. Finally, the colors complimented the architecture so perfectly that it looked as though every perspective and every lighting combination was considered. Although sometimes very simply used, the color provided life to this otherwise empty building.

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium left a strong impression.

Olympic Stadium and me