After the Olympics, cities like Beijing go back to just being themselves – no flurry and fluster, no sweep and swindle, just cities without any need to impress themselves upon the global consciousness as something they aren’t. What remains are a bunch of Olympic ring installations – ghostly reminders to the façade they once presented.
In Beijing, these are plentiful still. It’s been 8 years since the Olympic games were here (8 years already?) and the park next to our house still features large plastic rings implanted in the cement at the park’s entrance. I use them to reinforce English color names with my kids. “Let’s run through the red one!” or “Quick, let’s go get the green one and give it a green monster hug!”
But when I visit cities that have hosted the Olympics, like Vancouver, it doesn’t seem as prevalent as Beijing – this remaining symbolism, I mean.
Is it an honor to host the Olympics? I wonder these things. How honored do the people forced to move house for the construction of Olympic buildings feel? I wonder if the long-term foreigners who couldn’t get renewed visas during the 2008 summer Olympics felt the “welcome to China” that the Olympic athletes felt? And, despite the benefit to the air quality, I wonder if the factory workers on an unpaid leave of absence were happy about the Olympic games?
In any case, it’s a memory constantly whispering to us here in modern Beijing, continually voicing itself in the lingering décor of the city. They may never take these down. After all, there’s another bid to host more games, no? 2022 — another 8 years away. And that time will come far too soon.
Photos: Courtesy of Ember Swift