The 2010 Asian Games will begin officially at the end of this week. To me, it is another reminder that China has arrived on the world scene and that the Chinese really know how to celebrate events that bring foreigners to their land. The Games follow, first, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and then the 2010 EXPO in Shanghai; both sensational by any standard. Nevertheless, the Asian Games in Guangzhou is a fitting third jewel in the recent Sino Triple Crown.
One might ask, "How does a city and nation pull off a worthy encore after hosting an Olympics and a world's fair?" There are many aspects to doing this, but it is apparent, the key is team work and coordination.
An example is the drive from the Guangzhou (Baiyun) Airport into the city. Crews have been working at all hours of the day and night to decorate the road with an amazing variety of gardens and athletic figures, many of which are made of flowers. By the way, in China, Guangzhou is known as the city of flowers. The work on the road to and from the airport could not be done too far in advance because flowers and gardens do not stay at their peak for very long. Coordinating this compressed project with the normal daily airport traffic has been no mean feat.
The Games require thousands of "volunteers" to manage and direct the anticipated crowds and to man the hundreds of information booths all over the city. Jinan University, where I am teaching this fall, has declared three days of no classes to allow the student body to assist with the Games. Some students are performing during the opening ceremonies and many have been absent from my classes this week because of daily rehearsals. I am very willing to accommodate their absences because the chance to participate is a once-in-a-life time opportunity. Other students have been issued sharp light green and white jump suit-like uniforms to identify them as information sources and crowd management people.
The other night, I saw a large military convoy on a nearby street. There were perhaps a dozen large military trucks filled with soldiers. However, the soldiers were not dressed in combat uniforms, as would be normal when riding in the back of a truck. The soldiers were all in dress uniform (wheel hats, ties and dark green dress coats). One would have to assume they are to be guards and escorts during the Games and they too were rehearsing for their part in the Games.
Guangzhou has a sky line that rivals the one in Shanghai. But, the newly completed "Canton Tower" is just plain amazing in its own right and Shanghai has nothing like it. It is 600 meters high at its peak and it is describe by Wikipedia as a "twisted hyperboloid structure that is complex, transparent, curvy and gracious intended to be subtle and fragile but also sexy." Believe me, it is all those things and more. However, during the nights before the Games, it is displayed with indescribable exterior lighting. At times, the tower glows as if red hot. At other times it shows cool shades of blue and green. And, at still other times, the tower becomes almost pure white. All of these color combinations are further enhanced by undulating patterns that move and pulsate at various speeds. Against the clear night sky with the moon above, the Canton Tower is a sight like nothing I have ever seen before. It truly epitomizes the very nature and cooperative spirit of the party and celebration of life that is the 2010 Asian Games.