Exploring the sporty side of China's bustling capital
When Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Olympics, this northern capital gave itself a facelift. Within a few years, Beijing upgraded its urban living and working environment, public transportation system, as well as its information and communication infrastructure. It also finished the construction of the impressive Olympic Park within four years!
Despite its size, the Olympic green is easy to navigate, thanks to the newly developed Olympic subway line. Most of the sites are situated in the Olympic Green - an area so large it covers three subway stations and takes almost two hours to walk from north to south. Still, the principal buildings are all within walking distance from one another.
At the center is the RMB 3.2 billion structure of interlaced metal ribbons - the ever-famous Bird's Nest, also known as the National Stadium.
Designed by Swiss Architecture Firm Herzog Et De Meuron, the Bird's Nest hosted the impressive opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the athletic events and the football finale. It's no wonder that it's the icon of the Beijing Olympics.
Its sister, the Watercube, is an architectural oeuvre, which resembles a piece of giant cuboid soap. Every water-related aspect to it is eco-friendly. It uses rainwater to clean itself, the pool itself uses 50% less water than most pools, it even has a water reclamation system, which reuses the bathwater for flushing toilets, watering the lawns and cleaning.
Today the Olympic Green is open to the public. Athletes and sports fans can visit the area and can even experience the inside of the structures by paying an entrance fee or attending events.
Visiting amateur and professional athletes can easily find places and people to play with in Beijing. Public basketball, volleyball, badminton courts, football fields, and ping pong tables can be found in every district with the neighbourhood's residents and workers playing at all times of the day. In addition, the Chinese have shown great sportsmanship and will always greet you with a smile as they invite you to join them for a friendly game.
Not only do Beijingers like to play sports, they love to watch them too. One can watch local professional teams play in various venues such as the Workers' Stadium.
Or if you'd prefer to watch international championships broadcasting live, there is a myriad of sports bars to choose from around the city, mostly surrounding the stadiums in particular in the Chao Yang District.
The Rickshaw is a definite favorite, going to lengths that not many sports bars go to. It opens in the morning to offer you coffee and pancakes whilst you watch your favorite NFL team tackle and bring down their opponents.
For visitors looking to discover Beijing with an athletic twist, there are organized trips that bring you hiking or biking past the Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Qin ruins and deep valleys to enjoy the Chinese scenery.