Mizzou in China
No, Mizzou wrestler Ben Askren did not bring home the gold medal from the Olympics. Instead, he finished in seventh place after losing to a Cuban wrestler.
Greg Bowers, a University of Missouri School of Journalism professor, was there to watch the match.
Mizzou journalism students Mark Welsh (left), former Miss Missouri Sarah French and Paige Hansen with Today Show host Al Roker.
Being a broadcast journalism major, I feel almost [as] excited by the gymnastic events taking place below me as I do by watching the NBC sportscasters doing their on-camera report.
Gymnastics is one of the most popular Olympic events, and the National Indoor Stadium, which seats about 18,000 spectators, is usually packed full. It is always crazy-loud inside, and I love hearing all the different languages. It is amazing to be surrounded by journalists from around the world. I have met journalists from everywhere from London to South Africa to Tokyo and Brazil.
The women’s individual gymnastics final was such a big event the Today Show) crew decided to come watch. They walked into the press tribune, right by me, looking flawless without makeup. They look just as they do on camera! I could barely focus on the event; I was so excited they were sitting just a few feet from me.
When Meredith Vieira left, I decided to introduce myself to her. She was so kind and gracious, just how she seems on television. I told her I was coming to the taping of the Today Show later that night (they tape at 7 p.m. for the 7 a.m. show in the states), and she told me to yell at her so she would know I was there. That night she recognized me! I was so excited, and we even got a picture with her, Matt and Al! It was great.
Mizzou journalism students with Today Show host Meredith Vieira.
Yesterday, Meredith was back watching gymnastics. She greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I couldn’t believe it! Later I saw her getting ready to leave, but she couldn’t find her way out and asked if I would help her. I gladly escorted her to the exit she needed to get to, all the while talking to her about journalism, Beijing and my love for the Today Show.
I can’t believe all the great experiences I am having here in Beijing and really don’t want the trip to end. I have really gotten used to Beijing (the people, the food and even the sometimes-horrid smells) and know it will be bittersweet when I leave in just two weeks.
Journalism students Mark Welsh, Sarah French and Paige Hansen give a shout-out to Mizzou’s NBC affiliate station KOMU while talking with Today Show host Matt Lauer.
I didn’t have any work to do for the opening ceremonies, but my coworkers and I were allowed access to the Olympic Common Domain and the National Indoor Stadium on August 8. I could see almost every other nation’s athletes waiting for the ceremonies to start. Some athletes started the wave. [It] caught on and went around the stadium two or three times. My co-volunteer commented at how awesome it is that the wave is internationally known. I was awed at how people from so many different countries around the world with nothing to tie them all together but sports could cooperate in one gesture. The atmosphere was so much fun. In one case, I took a picture with a man from the Ivory Coast, and we traded pins.
As the ceremonies progressed, people who had performed in various parts of the ceremonies would wander around the area. Occasionally, these costumed performers would approach us and ask to take a picture with us. It did make me realize we’re all equally in awe of the ceremonies.
Day 1 at work
The first day of work with a paying crowd, I did not do my job entirely satisfactorily. My job is to get two or three good quotes from two or three athletes and run them back to the office for publication. I have slipped into a mindset of grabbing as many quotes as I can from as many athletes as I can, which isn’t good. I just have to remind myself that even though I think long conversations with athletes are fascinating, I am here not to write whole stories but to collect a few quotes. I admit it’s a little harder in French because it goes by a bit faster and I don’t understand all the words. I have discovered a trick: I write in English and French, which goes faster than trying to write in only one language. I have no idea why it’s easier for me to think in the two languages than to think in one or the other when I’m interviewing in French. Tomorrow, though, I will improve on my job as I interview the French women’s gymnastics team.
Day 2 at work
Today was more successful. I managed to get fewer quotes but with more meaning — and faster than last night. The athletes I interviewed were also extremely nice and patient with me as I took quotes. I am apparently not a very fast quote-taker. Today felt good in other ways: I talked to the PR woman for the U.S. gymnastics team, and she is very nice and traded a pin with me. I also will be doing a little bit of translation, from French to English. Don’t worry, Dad; I haven’t taken on the translation of someone’s speech or anything big like that!
Red carpet glamour
My friend Lauren blogs for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and they invited her to watch the opening ceremony at Club Bud (Budweiser). She invited a few of us to tag along with her.
After taking the subway, we were excited to see big spotlights in the distance. We followed the lights but ended up in front of the Heineken watch party. The Heineken people were a little upset when we asked them where Club Bud was, but we certainly were not disappointed when we arrived on their red carpet!
It was so amazing inside: tons of media and journalists, free Budweiser, crab cakes, steamed vegetables, kebabs and tons of plasma TV screens to watch the Opening Ceremony on! The best parts were the outdoor cabanas and TV projector screens. We felt like celebrities. It was a great night and an amazing opening ceremony.
It feels like the first day of school all over again. You go in knowing what you have to do (in this case, find an athlete and get quotes), but it never quite ends up exactly as expected. I’ve talked to athletes in training. I even fought reporters for quotes (here and elsewhere). And of course I’ve watched gymnastics before, many times. But to put everything together is a whole other ballgame. You know how hard it is to watch six different events simultaneously, keep track of who did what and why (fall, shaky, whatnot) and still focus on the few particular men who you’re going to interview?
Today I went in early. The first subdivision was still progressing (I was to work the second of three). While watching it in our little office, my manager came in and said one of the individual athletes had finished and was already in the Mixed Zone - and I needed to quote him. At first I’m like “OK, who the heck is it!?” since I hadn’t done much studying of the other subdivisions. But with a two-second rundown, I was out. I acted like I knew everything about him and was published as the first official flash quotes of the gymnastics competition! Woo-hoo! He was really nice, too.
I technically worked all three subdivisions, voluntarily staying late to help with the last one too. I don’t think my feet or back can take that kind of schedule again tomorrow, but I was happy to help where needed. It’s a real rush to be in the thick of things - journalists from five-plus countries all crammed in trying to get the best quotes possible from their chosen spokesmen. I did screw up once, but I think my overall work made up for it.
Burning the midnight oil
The past two days of have been hectic and sleep is … well I forget what sleep is because I get so little of it. Yesterday I spent my entire day at the gymnastics venue watching the women’s qualifications. My shift wasn’t until the afternoon, but with permission I went early to watch because the first group included China and Romania, the second had the U.S. team, and the third included Russia. My group included Brazil and France, both of which made the finals but were not talked about as much. After getting only five hours of sleep last night, I woke up this morning to watch beach volleyball; BOCOG had given us free tickets to the event. I take what I can when I can and can handle sacrificing sleep for Olympics.
[Later we] headed on over to The Today Show. It was a great experience; my signs got on TV, and I got autographs from the entire Today Show crew of reporters and TV personalities. The best part was getting insight from Ann Curry when she talked with our MU group during a commercial break. Her words of wisdom were noted by our group and will not soon be forgotten. My shining moment is that in the last few minutes of the show one of my signs, “Hello Perry MO,” is shown in the middle of the screen. I had to give a shout out to everyone back home.
Everyone knows yin and yang. Light and dark, good and evil, happy and sad. Everything in the universe can be connected to one of the two, and they keep each other in check. Well, I’ve had both when it comes to Beijing transportation.
A few days ago: We want to go to Wangfujing (shopping area surrounding the Olympics Flagship store). So, we set out in a taxi. We’re on one of the ring roads, which are about five roads equivalent to highways that circle the city, and all of a sudden a van to our right is trying to merge onto the road. We don’t move over because there should be no need, but he’s honking and trying to get where we are. OK, first off, you can honk here at anything, and they do. But mainly a honk is because you want the adjacent lane to know you’re there and they shouldn’t come over. Makes sense, right? This guy won’t slow down! He merges in behind us finally, and we think all is OK. As soon as a lane to the right opens, he zips out (we think cursing at us, but we don’t know the language), pulls ahead of us, and cuts us off. Actually slams on his breaks on the highway! The four of us in the car are like what the…! Our driver, getting a little flustered, goes to pull around him. The guy cuts us off again. And again. Finally, he parks his van sideways, gets out pointing and yelling, and goes to get our driver out of the taxi. On the highway, remember. We’re freaked and looking for both an exit and, hopefully, not a gun in the pocket he’s reaching into. Eventually he lets our driver go, but we still don’t know what happened.
So that night, we’re not liking taxis. But we need to go home, so we get into one just past rush hour. This driver immediately knows where we’re going (unlike some) and tries to tell jokes to us even though we don’t understand him. So, he turns on the radio to an American pop station. Cool! Then he proceeds to dance to the music. We’re all laughing with him and in a good mood. Then he tries to sing (he doesn’t know English, but he has obviously heard the songs before), and motions for us to do the same. Why not, right? “There Can Be Miracles” (Prince of Egypt song) and Michael Buble’s “Home” never sounded worse, but he sure turned yin into yang.
“We are so LIC”
“LIC” is a phrase one of my friends made up that stands for “Lost in China.” Today I was definitely “lic-ed” (pronounced “licked”). Lauren and I decided to go to the 798 Art District, which is located in northeast Beijing in the Dashanzi district. It is pretty far away from where we are staying, so in an attempt to save money (which we’d rather spend on food) we opted to take public transportation. We were very determined. So we hopped on the subway, transferred lines just once and, after an hour and a half, reached our destination. Only it wasn’t our final destination. We still had to take the 909 bus east.
We were a little confused, so we started looking for English speakers. We spotted some people from Holland, and mid-conversation we saw the 909 bus and said a quick goodbye to the kind but unhelpful foreigners and got on the bus. We did not know which direction the bus was going. After attempting to ask if we were heading in the right direction for nearly 10 minutes, we discovered that we were not going the right way. We hopped off the bus, and the other riders waved goodbye to us. We then encountered another problem: We knew which way to go, but we had no idea how far we needed to ride or where get off. We tried to make friends at the bus stop, and once we found an English speaker, we clung to her. Soon there were at least seven women surrounding us trying to figure out where the 798 Art District exit was. Suddenly our bus arrived, and a woman decided it was her duty to escort us onto the bus! Two people in the front seat got up so that Lauren and I had a place to sit. It was so cute, and we were happy to be heading in the right direction!
Taxis in China are something special. The base price is 10 RMB (7 RMB = 1 USD), and then it costs 2 RMB for every kilometer. The most expensive ride cost almost 45 RMB ($7) to go across town. My favorite taxi experience in Beijing was actually the first. Molly, Erin and I were riding in a taxi heading to the closest subway station that was open. The driver’s phone went off. He answered it, chatted for a bit and then handed the phone to me. His friend wanted to practice his English, so we talked until I noticed the driver acting really funny and poking a bunch of buttons. I handed him the cell phone back, and within three minutes the cab coasted to a stop on an overpass bridge. It had died, and he pointed to us to walk back from where we came. We hailed another cab, and it got us there — kind of. We tried pronouncing our destination in Chinese, which was a no-no. It got us to a totally different location but still close to a subway station, so it wasn’t such a bad deal.
On Sunday, a friend of mine and I tried the subway. It is a little farther away from us than the bus stop, but we wanted to see what it would be like. I’ve been on a few subways around the world, and this ride was the smoothest I’ve had. You can barely tell if you’re accelerating or decelerating, and going around curves doesn’t make you look for the nearest thing to grab onto. I was impressed. I also liked the lit map in the subway cars: Dots were lit in red for the stations that had been passed and in blue for the stations still to come, so you knew where you were during the entire ride. I can imagine when line 8 opens our commute will only get faster.
Line 8 subway finally opened. But it actually makes commute more troublesome. You can’t just transfer from 10 to 8 like you do the other lines. Because they built it underneath the Olympic Green, we must exit the subway line 10 and go around the block, through two security tents, back down and around to where we started, so THEN we can ride the line. Efficiency anyone? At least going home is easy; only staff can ride it right now, so there’s no one on the trains. We used it to take nighttime pictures the other night. Someone should have told us it closes at 10 p.m., though, since we were stuck on the Green at 10:30 not knowing how to get back.
Five days and counting
A friend of mine who has been living in Beijing for the last three years said the countdown signs have been in Beijing since the city won the bid to host the 2008 summer Olympics. Tonight, she said it seems unreal that the countdown for the days to the Olympics is in the single digits. I see more and more people with credentials to access venues, more security employees and more swatches of Olympic colors than any day before in the month that I’ve been here. I am torn between two feelings: one of excitement and one of anxiety. Am I well enough prepared? We’ve been going to training at our venue for so many days that I feel comfortable with what I am supposed to do, but none of the mock interviews and press conferences can approach what I think the Olympics will actually feel like. I try not to think too hard about it. Maybe when it hits I won’t have time to worry and I’ll be OK. Stay tuned!
Night on the Green
The [Olympic] Green is stunning at night. Runway-style lights line the huge plaza as each building is lit to emphasize its unique grandeur. I’m sure as soon as the tourists arrive, the scene will feel like a wonderland. We saw stages and screens set up everywhere. I can’t wait for the games to start.
Ted called after work to say he had good news. To my surprise and joy, he pulled out a pass saying “Rehearsal” on it. It wasn’t actually a pass into the Bird’s Nest for the opening ceremony rehearsal, but it was a pass onto the Olympic Green. We set up just south of the Nest over the pond and waited. They didn’t disappoint us. Not only was everything lit up last night, but they shot off fireworks several times throughout the practice. Now, if I had my tripod and wide-angle lens, these would be awesome, but they’ll do.
As people were swarming out, one of our Chinese colleagues mentioned her friend getting inside after the last rehearsal. I was very skeptical. But, sure enough, no one stopped us. It is completely amazing. Walking between the huge pillars that make up the outside of the nest, you can only see a little sliver of what’s inside the stands. But, as you approach, it just opens up into an amazingly huge stadium. Everything circles around unobstructed to the very top. It is something to behold.
This week starts “podium training” for the gymnasts. Nope, it’s not showing them what it’s like to win a medal, though that would be kinda cool. Athletes get to train and work out on the equipment in the FOP (field of play), which then journalists and FQRs can watch and ask questions. I finally got my first true Olympic interview. Granted, it was two questions because the athlete was in a hurry, but it still counts! INFO ‘08 published it! We as flash quotes reporters do an interview with an athlete and then run it back to the office, where a copytaker takes it down and sends it off to the editors. If it’s approved, it gets published on INFO 2008, which is the Internet one-stop shop for accredited journalists. Complete with everything from daily weather and traffic to full coverage of past tournaments and biographies, it makes research soooo much easier.
This interview also was my first use of an interpreter, since [the athlete] was a Japanese gymnast and spoke no English. You really take language for granted, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time I would be lost in translation without an interpreter. It went well, though. Now I just need to learn Japanese to see if any newspapers use them.
The past few days I have been training at the National Indoor Stadium with my new Chinese friends.
This is a picture my friend Rosy (that is her English name) took the other day in our staff training room at the National Indoor Stadium. I am getting really excited about the Olympics starting and cannot believe they are just four days away! All the journalists are beginning to arrive, so it has been really exciting to be at the Olympic Green the past couple of days.
Two days ago my friend Sarah and I were walking around near the Lama Temple after dinner and an older man came up to us and started talking in German. After we told him we were American, he started talking in broken English. He told us his name was Yalcin Ozer. and that he competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics, representing Germany in gymnastics. Now he is 66 years old and has been to every Olympics since he first competed, except for the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Despite his age, Yalcin still has young muscles, a great sense of humor and the ability to stay out later than I can, and his kind smile makes him a friend to almost everyone — even if he doesn’t speak the same language.
I went to training at a hotel in the Olympic Green. When we got there and were seated, a man stood up on the stage and asked if anyone in the room had experience with synchronized swimming. I immediately jumped up and booked it toward the stage. I knew this was my chance. Kayla wasn’t far behind me, and we basically tackled this old man. I told him I’d done synchro when I was younger, and Kayla said her mom had done synchro. Long story short, the synchro “expert” didn’t show up, and we have been reassigned to the Water Cube to be the people that create event previews, event recaps and press releases for synchro. YES!!!! All I have to do is pass a test on my practical knowledge of synchronized swimming. I have been studying madly for the past four hours and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I hope I can pull it off.
The Cube and I
It is so cool to flash your accreditation and walk in to an Olympic venue. There are wire fences surrounding the entire Olympic Green as well as all the facilities, cutting off access to 95 percent of the grounds. Supposedly this will all disappear, but right now it looks like you’re almost walking into a prison. We can’t take pictures, as there are guards everywhere, patrolling the premises and the inside of the facility. Even on the comp pool deck there are about three guards who will lunge at you, waving frantically, if you attempt to whip out your camera, as Kayla did on the first day. I seemingly passed the writing and knowledge test, much to my incredible excitement! It was worth sitting in my room, staring at a computer for two days straight. The studying doesn’t end here. I have to explain to the world who won, who lost and WHY. Usually they have paid people do this job, but the synchro woman had visa trouble and wasn’t let into the country. The world works in mysterious ways. Our boss, Tim, is an Aussie residing in the UK and is very on top of things. We got a lengthy speech from our Chinese manager about how we are not allowed to blog about our training or the goings-on at ONS; you can be fired and sent home immediately. So I won’t be spilling any secrets. But I’ve learned that ONS is run by Infostrada Sports, a big communications company, and we are their unpaid labor — getting great experience.
-Allison Bennett (Mizzou swimmer)
Try to keep up with these acronyms. There must be at least two dozen for the Olympics committees/groups, like ONS (Olympic News Service) and ISS (Infostrada Sports, the online technology and data supplier). You have the venue names (NIS is the National Indoor Stadium, where I work). Then you have job titles (FQR, Flash Quotes Reporter, and SIS, Sports Information Specialist). Then the country names (RSA: South Africa, PRK: North Korea, etc.). Then, finally I hope, are the events (GA: Artistic Gymnastics). While the NIS may not be quite as cool as the Water Cube or the Bird’s Nest, it’s still pretty spiffy.
The Chinese are definitely taking the Olympics seriously. We have to pass so many detectors and gates just to get into work [and then] actual X-ray machines and pat-downs. Even to get into the Green (main Olympics area), you must have either accreditation or a ticket. And you can’t go into any venue otherwise. I can’t go into the Cube. Ever! People who are volunteers at venues outside the Green can’t even come past the first gates.
My official job title will likely be an FQR. I’ll be working either in the broadcast MZ or press MZ. They have their advantages. In the BOB (Broadcast area), I can’t ask any questions. And if you see me on TV, I’ll get fired. You think I’m kidding? In the press area, it’s a scrum to get to the athletes, with 100 reporters and FQRs in a tiny, itty-bitty area. But I do sometimes get to ask my own questions, and it’s closer to my real line of work. The print Mixed Zone (MZ), is called that because the press and athletes “mix” together, separated by the gates, of course.
Laura Dotson in her ONS intern uniform.
Other than that, I don’t know if I can tell too much about training. We’ve been told we can’t talk much about specifics of the job, at least during the Olympics.
Recently in Beijing
I have been extremely busy the past six days doing my training at the National Indoor Stadium. I have grown to actually enjoy my polyester pants and nylon shirt that is definitely NOT suitable for Beijing’s heat and humidity. My favorite part is the fanny pack. The bucket hat that came with the outfit is just too much for me to handle, but many of the Chinese volunteers in my group wear it every day. It’s pretty hilarious.
My schedule has pretty much been the same the past few days: Wake up around 7 a.m., get to the National Indoor Stadium by 9 a.m., and train until around 5 p.m. My favorite part has been getting to know the Chinese volunteers in my group. The first day I arrived, they were all so curious to “finally meet” me after “staring” at my picture. They started taking pictures of me when I arrived, and I have been told multiple times that I look just like Britney Spears. I think they would say this to any American with blond hair.
Yesterday was a “rest” day as they call it here. The pollution has been horrible the past few days. My eyes burn when I walk outside, and it is so hot that I don’t even bother with a morning shower. With the Olympics just a week away, I really hope China does something to clear the air.
First days of work for ONS
The ONS operation is more complex than I had expected. There are 951 Chinese and international people working or volunteering for the ONS. The reporting we will be doing is slightly different from any other I’ve done; we’ll be asked to write down two or three quotes per athlete we interview and provide context for the quotes, and that will be what we release for use by journalists reporting at the Olympics. It’s a little trickier than it sounds, though. We’ll be sharing space with journalists covering the Olympics, and we can listen in on interviews and take quotes from that. We’re certainly not supposed to get annoying and ask a bunch of questions when there are other journalists, and we definitely can’t “hog” an athlete for our questioning. Which almost takes the pressure off, because at a high-interest event like gymnastics, there almost won’t be a need for an ONS flash quotes reporter to ask questions of athletes since so many journalists will be asking them questions already.
Our target athletes for our flash-quote gathering (the flash part comes from quickly and concisely taking two or three quotes per athlete) are the medalists, the surprises — those who win bigger than was expected — and favorites who lose. Since our quotes go to large audiences of journalists, we’re trying to hit the athletes whom reporters will be most likely to want to quote. Then we have 10 minutes from the time the last quote was uttered to make it back to the press office, dictate it to a “copy taker,” or someone who will write what we tell them and help us keep it in correct style, etc. We will be taking a typing test later on in our training to determine who among us would qualify as good copy takers. A good copy taker not only is fast but also can spell the British way — “colour” instead of color, “grey” instead of gray, etc.
Questions we can’t ask athletes are non-sports related, such as questions about the venues, facilities, athlete village and any controversial issues inside or outside the arena. This makes sense, since we’re going to be interviewing athletes right after events, and journalists are going to want to know athletes’ emotions and opinions about their performances, not about whether their toilet flushes the same was as back home.
My French skills may come in handy during the Olympics, as the French are supposed to do well and not every member of the team may speak English well enough for an interview. I am excited at the prospect of using my French, but I need to learn French terms for gymnastics.
- Beth Androuais
We are making the transition from being uncertain tourists to [being] Olympic employees. The first two weeks, which include some of the most fulfilling and amazing days I have ever had, were filled with tours of Beijing and surrounding areas. Now, with the Olympics just weeks away, our real reason for coming to China begins.
As gymnastics flash quote reporters, our job will be both stressful and important. I am one of 18 MU students working the gymnastics venue. It was pointed out to us that we are not the stars of the coverage; none of us will have bylines from our reporting, no one will be on camera, and the only way we can become famous (or infamous) from this job is for less-than-appealing reasons.
I have had jobs where my boss referred to us as a “team,” and we in turn ignored that feeling. At the Olympics, however, the team concept feels right because of the situation we are in, and I have to continually remind myself this is not an average job but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Personal credit for doing my job correctly is not what my bosses or the people we are serving care about. My job is simply to get my work done in the best way, as quickly as I can. If that happens, the rewards from my work should be evident in the skills I have learned and the quality of the product we put out.
This is my last experience as a student at MU, and having been abroad before, I am trying to make every day I have a worthwhile one.
I have been most excited about seeing the wall. We arrived in the morning just as the president of Mexico was taking his own personal walk along the wall. Because of him, all the tourists were forced to stay off the wall. It was so crowded and very, very hot when we were waiting to go in. People were very aggressive, and being the claustrophobic person I am, I was a little put off by the massive number of people around me. When we did finally get in, it was amazing. We only had an hour, so I walked as far as I could to a lookout point. We got lucky because that day was the clearest day I have seen in Beijing so far.
Paige Hansen’s photos
Great Wall, great wonder
There is a good reason why the Great Wall is listed among the New Seven Wonders of the World. Land rises up in every direction, and then this man-made snake barrier stretches and winds with it. There’s no way to see it all (partly because some of it is rubble, or the government hasn’t opened it). It’s just that big. As our fearless professor put it so nicely: The experience is similar to standing on the beach at sunrise or sunset and feeling the waves stretch into the distance and knowing you’ll never be able to fully grasp the magnitude [of the ocean]. And knowing that they did this all with very basic tools is even more [impressive]. The pyramids are similar in a way, but they aren’t on mountain cliffs.
To get the full effect, one must climb. Not a stroll up, but a 50-degree incline separated every 200 or 300 meters by platforms and a few stairs. Gripping tennis shoes are a minimum. Breathing is labored whether the sky is blue or smoggy. Water, though heated from the sun above, is most welcome. And the experience. Oh, the experience. Though mocked by the “I climbed the Great Wall” T-shirts, it is certainly a bragging point if you can get to the top. I settled for halfway up our section, since the royal visit cut our trip to only an hour of freedom (half-hour up, half-hour back). And while my panoramas don’t quite show the intensity, I hope you can get the sensation.
Laura Dotson’s photos
Beautiful day to climb the Great Wall of China
I have done it! I have been to the Great Wall of China, and I climbed to the highest point along the route I took. I took more photos than were probably necessary. But the trip was not without adventure. The police and military presence was stepped up for the visit of Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon, who chose to visit the Wall at the same time as our group. We had a mini parade of official cars go past us while we were walking up to the wall, and our trip was delayed about 30 minutes. When the wall reopened to visitors who weren’t Calderon or his entourage, the result was a human crush at the entrance to the wall. My sunglasses prevented me from being poked in the eye once by an umbrella (parasol?). I understand now why the Chinese say one man could prevent 1,000 attackers: the entrances to the wall are pretty small. Frankly, I’m impressed with the undertaking to build the wall. Although I’m not entirely sure why it was necessary; the mountain’s pretty steep. The day was possibly the most beautiful I’ve seen in Beijing. There was hardly a cloud in the bright blue sky. I did not realize the mountains were so close to Beijing.
Beth Androuais’s photos
I climbed the GREAT WALL!! Our day was delayed because the Mexican President decided to show up, and his security shut down a whole side of the wall, not letting people enter or exit. We were shoved together with the other 100,000 people waiting to get up. This was where the real hatred for umbrellas started. The people I was with decided to hike up one side on the wall and then hike down alongside the wall, under a humungous sign that read “One World, One Dream.” We only had time for one side of the section we were at, but I was really surprised by the angles this giant stone structure takes. Some points you are pulling yourself up at a 60-degree angle or smashing your way through tiny passageways that were once part of the watchtowers. You and, like, 10,000 of your new closest, umbrella-wielding friends.
Allison Bennett’s photos
Goodness, gracious, Great Wall of China
Lindsay on The Wall.
Mizzou journalism students went to Beijing to help write headlines, but now they seem to be making headlines as well.
China Daily has written about the students’ visit, and Chinese TV station CCTV has interviewed the J-School’s finest as well.
This video clip of the CCTV interview is in Mandarin, mostly, but about 30 seconds into it, you can catch blogger Lindsay Toler talking about her grandparents’ 1979 trip to China and her own experiences there.
(And in case you missed it, we’ve added photos from the culinary adventures of Allison Bennett and friends to the food entry.)
Move over, Andrew Zimmern
No reservations? Weird food? Pssshaw. Get me on the Travel Channel.
For those of you who don’t spend all your free time watching American cable, [“No Reservations” and “Bizarre Foods”] follow men all over the world as they try interesting/weird foods while learning about that country’s culture.
Tonight I ate: snake, silkworm, chicken heart, banana puffs (like donuts, mmmm) and
SCORPION! My friends ate: seahorse, sea snake, cow stomach and cicada — all of which I was too wussy to attempt. A long day ended with a second trip to the night market downtown, outside of “Times Square China,” or, as I’ve learned to call it, Wangfujing. We made sure to get there early while the vendors were in full force, hawking their goods.
It is mostly interesting fare on a stick, but there are burrito and gyro type things filled with lamb and beef and bok choy as well. You can barter for your food, but once you reach a price, you need to give exact change because most will then just give you two kabobs instead and refuse to give you change.
My system was: Watch Matt eat it on camera, hear his description and see the level of grimace, and then decided whether to help finish the stick. Although the chicken hearts were my idea and purchase, I still let him go first. My camera ran out of batteries before we got to that point of the trip, so I will steal Whit and Eric’s pictures for you to see my proof of awesomeness.
That’s too much!
Ever seen the “Price Is Right” and their game “That’s too much!”? Well, that phrase took on a whole new meaning the last couple of days. We had a very special dinner with the President of Renmin University and the newly arrived students from University of North Carolina, who will be joining us for the Olympics. They began the meal with speeches from each of the dignified guests and then began to bring out the food. Now, the normal Chinese dinner is a family style, where you are at a round table with a huge lazy Susan in the middle. All the bowls and plates are in the center, and then you take from each whatever you want. So they bring some cold zucchini sticks, and some gelatin sticks, and some kind of nuts, and beef braised in soy sauce, and chicken soup with cabbage (with bone still in it), and peanut chicken with legs and such included
Peking duck. Spicy chicken with thin green peppers that look like green beans (not good surprise). Stuffed green peppers on a bed of sunny-side-up eggs. Flat fish with veggies. Whole shrimp with the antennas still on. Some kind of corned-like beef with a lot of fat. Rice, of course, though at the end of the meal. Fried bread knots with green onions and oil. Summer squash. Sprouts and greens. Finally for dessert, watermelons and grape tomatoes (how those work together I’m not sure). THAT’S TOO MUCH FOOD! One of our Chinese friends said that if we were six to eight Chinese people, the food wouldn’t have piled up in the middle as it did (we only ate about half the food).
To view photos and comments from the reception, check out Beth Arouais’s after-dinner blog post.
What’s for lunch?
I have a feeling that I am going to have a lot of blogs about food. So far no two eating experiences have been the same. On the day we were touring newspapers, we ate at a very expensive “Western” buffet that cost us each 100 Yuan ($15); because of the size of our group we were given a 50 percent discount. It was a very fancy hotel restaurant with chefs and everything. “Western buffet” just means that it is a buffet. Overall, the food was not that good and definitely overpriced, although I was glad I got to try a cold squid salad. For dessert they had ice cream: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, green tea and carrot. I tried the latter of the three and was pleasantly surprised with the green tea ice cream - not so much with the purple carrot ice cream.
Tastes like home
The best part about today was lunch. We went to a four-star hotel where there was a huge Chinese-American style buffet. I ate vegetable spring rolls, sushi, fried rice, macaroni salad and banana bread! It was the first time I have been full the entire trip, so I really enjoyed it! Since it was monsoon raining outside tonight, a few of us decided to order pizza from Domino’s. It tasted just like it does at home so it is nice to know that at least that is available if we don’t feel like pig liver or fried eel!
American food, made in China
This entry in Lindsay Toler’s blog for the Dallas Morning News describes the Chinese take on American chains such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.
I’m sure everyone reading this has heard about the infamous smog that regularly covers the air over the city of Beijing. Flying in on July 3, we couldn’t see the city from the air because it was covered in smog, and we could tell the difference between the smog and the clouds. It wasn’t a cloudy day on July 3; it was a smoggy day.
I have seen blue sky on three of the days that I’ve been here so far: once for a little while on Thursday morning, a few patches intermittently throughout the day Saturday, (of which I took a picture) and for the entire day Sunday, with smog creeping in only a few hours before sunset (which is about 7 p.m. here). The sky was totally blue! If I could speak Chinese or had a Chinese translator, I would have stopped people in the street and asked them the last time they had seen an entirely blue sky for a whole day in Beijing. Monday started off with what is becoming a regular-looking smoggy day. (Friday was the smoggiest I’ve seen yet.)
I already miss that fresh country air
For the first time today, I saw blue sky and clouds — but just for a little while in the afternoon. I have always heard about the pollution in Beijing but could never truly grasp what it meant. The pollution looks like a thin fog everywhere and all the time. The first day was the hardest — having rarely been around smog and never to this extent adjusting was not an easy task. I can only imagine the health risks it has on the people of Beijing. I know that there has been a lot of talk about outdoor athletes being wary of the breathing conditions and while I feel the Olympics will still go on, I wonder if any world records will be broken, and if so to the same extent if the event was held in a less polluted area.
During their first week in Beijing, Mizzou journalism students have visited People’s Daily and Beijing Youth Daily in China — and have become media attractions themselves. Some observations about Chinese media:
Let’s put it right out there. The media in China are HUGE! … There are nearly 9,400 different print magazines in China (including many of our well-known titles from America redone Asian-style), not to mention the 4,000 online-only publications. And USA Today, America’s largest daily at 2.2 million circulation, doesn’t even come close to China’s People’s Daily at 3 million prints every day. Can anyone say deforestation? Someone get a tree-hugger over here pronto! China and America rival each other in the number of Internet users, at more than 210 million each. Talk about your World-Wide Web. The major difference is that the U.S. has pretty much reached its plateau at just over 70 percent usage in the country. China is still growing by 72 million users a year. To put that is perspective, that’s an average of 200,000 new Internet users (or the city of St. Louis) every day.
For online editions, I guess they’re not that different. The People’s Daily and USA Today Online both have about 2 million unique visitors daily to their homepages. But the People’s Daily also comes in 10 different languages. Yep, 10. I feel so unilingual. Just the community section of People’s Daily is larger than the whole Missourian building, and there are 80 other sections to put online. Can you imagine the type of editing that must go on in these publications? One thing the U.S. tops China on is advertising revenue (beating them at about $1 billion). But the majority of Chinese papers have a lower ad ratio, giving more editorial content to the reader. Not a fair fight.
Oh, I almost forgot. How do you get the news to reach so many people spread out so wide? It’s not by TV like the U.S., although they do have a massive CCTV network. Nope, it’s by cell phone. Some U.S. papers are starting to go this route with flash updates. But with a monthly mobile increase of 7.2 billion, Chinese media have seen the light. And they like it, with the revenue from mobile news reaching 805 billion RMB in 2007. I’m just awestruck at the size of things over here.
- Laura Dotson
The one thing that is amazing to me is the media presence throughout the whole thing. We seem to be a big deal here. There were TV cameras and journalists waiting for us when we got off the plane and arrived at the hotel, and unless we have been in our rooms, a video camera or photographer has been within six feet of me snapping away. I’ve been interviewed about six times in the past 24 hours, and one question they always ask is: “What do you think about the air quality?” When I said that I thought it was bad to the first reporter, he asked why and I replied that I hadn’t been able to see the tops of buildings yesterday when we were walking outside. He then proceeded to ARGUE with me, saying I was wrong and that yesterday had been rainy so it didn’t count. Journalistic ethics seem to be a little different here. We watched as a photographer took the contract out of a volunteer’s hand, put it in another person’s hand took a picture and then rearranged the scene again.
My fellow Canadian Mark Welsh and I
both got asked to do an interview on CCTV (China’s ABC) with their equivalent of Larry King/Oprah (or so we’ve gotten ourselves to believe). The Chinese Oprah = Choprah. It is happening on the 14th, so I will find it on YouTube!
- Allison Bennett
Students from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism are having the experience of a lifetime.
Sixty of the school’s top undergraduate and graduate students have arrived in Beijing, China, where this summer they will serve as Olympic News Service volunteers during the 29th Summer Olympiad.
While rubbing elbows with the international press corps, Olympic athletes, coaches and spectators, the Mizzou-trained interns will collect quotes from participants, attend press conferences, write news briefs and take on other reporting duties for the ONS.
About 300 students from universities around the world are participating in the program, created through a partnership between Renmin University of China and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Mizzou is well represented.
Before the games start, the students are studying Chinese life and culture—both inside and outside the classroom. Over the next eight weeks, read about their experiences in this special section of Mizzou Wire’s Live Wire blog.
Meet the bloggers
Laura Dotson is a graduate student studying magazine editing with an emphasis on online journalism. She will complete her master’s project in China, while also reporting on the gymnastics and trampoline competitions for the Olympic News Service. She plans to graduate in December and then return home to St. Louis, where she will become editor of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s new community magazine, Innovate.
Beth Androuais, who is both French and American, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism (newspaper design) and plans to complete her master’s degree in journalism (convergence) this fall. She grew up in Boston and lived in Eaubonne, France, for a year. Her family now lives in St. Louis. While volunteering for the Olympic News Service, she will interview gymnasts and their coaches and write press-release-style summaries. Her personal blog is bilingual.
Furqaan Sadiq is an avid swimmer and sailor who has lived in places including upstate New York and southeast Missouri. The senior newspaper journalism student will cover cycling at the Olympic Games. As a flash quote reporter, he will interview cyclists and write briefs for the Olympic News Service.
Allison Bennett is a senior newspaper journalism student. A native of Toronto, Canada, she came to Mizzou as a member of the women’s swim team. While in Beijing, Bennett will work as a media assistant in the Olympic News Service media center, covering several sports.
Lindsay Toler is a senior newspaper journalism major. This summer she will cover gymnastics and trampoline for the Olympic News Service. She also will blog for the neighborhood section of her hometown paper, the Dallas Morning News.
Julia Shuck, a Missouri native, is a junior agricultural journalism major whose passions include traveling, communication and international agriculture. While at the Olympics, her duties include interviewing gymnasts and their coaches after competitions and during press conferences.
Justin O’Neil, a native of Chicago, is a senior newspaper journalism and political science student. He will help cover men’s and women’s gymnastics for the Olympic News Service during the Olympic Games in Beijing and also will work at the Paralympics there in September.
Paige Hansen, a junior from San Francisco, is a broadcast journalism major. While in Beijing, she will work as an intern for the Olympic News Service.