Monday August 18
The days here always bring the unexpected and today was no different. I had booked to see the Great Wall of China thinking it would be possible to network and pay a visit to one of the great wonders of the world at the same time. But turning up at recept
The days here always bring the unexpected and today was no different. I had booked to see the Great Wall of China thinking it would be possible to network and pay a visit to one of the great wonders of the world at the same time.
But turning up at reception there was no one there except a young guy with my name on a piece of paper. He introduced himself as David, my guide, so I obediently followed him to a waiting car and asked 'are you taking me to the coach' to which he replied 'no you are the only one on the trip today.' This was the start of a real educational experience and if visitors could experience this sort of treatment in London in 2012 they would certainly return to the UK.
But before the Wall, some interesting facts about China gleaned from my day with David. Beijing is even bigger than I thought. It has 17 million residents. An average monthly salary is 3,000 Yuan, (about 12 to the pound). The cost of an apartment is between 7,000 - 15,000 Yuan per square metre depending how close you are to the city centre. Petrol is 6.5 Yuan a litre.
China has 56 ethnic groups and if you saw the Opening Ceremony you may have noticed the Chinese celebrating their diversity.
So, on to the Wall and throughout the journey our driver enjoyed sounding the horn, which he did to anyone who got in his way, but it did get us there very quickly. The entrance was lined with people selling everything you could possibly imagine and each seller was determined you would buy their goods.
The climb to the Wall is up half a mile of steps. What you've seen on TV doesn't prepare you for the scale of the project which begun 500 years ago in the Ming dynasty to keep out the Mongols. In the end it stretched over 6000km although today access is restricted.
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Then back down and I return to Beijing for a bit of lunch. I had to sit on my own as the guide and driver felt they couldn't sit with me - I had used my deodorant that day, I promise!
I then visited the Temple of Heaven, a beautiful structure in 270 hectares and claiming to be the largest architectural site in the world. Here the Emperors visited twice a year to pray to the Jade God to bring good harvests. It was here that I found out why the Olympic Stadium and the other main venues were built where they are. It is the central north-south axis, which passes through the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Bell and Drum Tower and the Tower of Heaven.
I then accepted an invite to the Beijing Hilton for the Lane 4 reception, which is Adrian Moorhouse's company. I was able to speak to Sharon Davies about the Hertfordshire is Ready for Winners Partnership and tried to secure her support for our legacy work. She is keen to support what we are doing so we shall see.
I missed a meal to watch the repeats of Team GB's great successes in the medals and I even met the family of Rebecca Romero, returning with a glow after her success in the Velodrome.
And what about that 100M final won by a mile by Usain Bolt who was celebrating before he finished the race and yet still managed to get a record? What more can these Games bring? I can't wait to find out!