2018Jul 6

SPAD in China Series: Sights of Beijing

Schwabe 7By: Gabi Schwabe

To conclude our once-in-a-lifetime trip to China, SPAD took on Beijing. Although our stay there was short, it was the place in which I made my favourite memories. The major sights we experienced were the Beijing Olympic Park, the Forbidden City, and last but certainly not least, the Great Wall of China.

The Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games still inspire me; from the splash of Michael Phelps winning a record 8 gold medals in the pool, to Usain Bolt running away with three gold medals and three world records. I had a lot of anticipation leading up to our visit to the Olympic Park, and it did not disappoint. We had a tour inside the Ice Cube, which in 2008 was known as the Water Cube (National Aquatics Center) but is one of the structures that is being transitioned for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. It has started to take place with the renaming of the Water Cube to the Ice Cube. This was where they held the diving and swimming competition in the 2008 Olympics. It was incredible being inside the bleachers, I felt like I had gone back in time and was cheering the swimmers on. We learned that after being refurbished, the facility will be used for curling.Schwabe 1

Inside the Cube there were many displays showing the early construction stages of the Olympic Park and some of the history behind the Beijing Games. We also toured a water park, and a small exhibition dedicated to the overseas Chinese and compatriots who offered their support to the Beijing Olympics. We learned that the Water Cube was the building that received the most donations from the largest number of donors from the most countries and regions. This building is an icon and is seen as an everlasting symbol of the solidarity of the Chinese nation.

Schwabe 6After the Ice Cube, we walked across the street to the Bird’s Nest. During the 2008 Games this was home to the opening and closing ceremonies, athletic events, as well as the soccer final. Walking through the gates to the ground level, I felt butterflies before seeing the track. We rode the gold VIP escalators and could look out to see the stands in the distance. Standing in the bleachers and looking across the entire stadium was an indescribable feeling. I could imagine the seats full, everyone on their feet, watching Bolt make history.

The Beijing Olympic Park was my first experience inside an Olympic venue, and it proved just how much is involved in one of the biggest international events. To have gotten the opportunity to tour this venue is an experience I will cherish. The Olympics require so much international cooperation, sportsmanship, and dedication, and having this experience in China made me realize that Beijing will make an excellent host city once again in 2022. The people we met were kind and respectful, and despite cultural differences, the volunteers that hosted us always made us feel welcome.

Schwabe 5We concluded our experience with two of the most popular sights of Beijing during our last and hottest day in China. With temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius and the humidity making it feel even hotter, we set out early in the morning to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square, one of the largest city squares in the world, sits in the centre of Beijing. It was interesting to see the security officers policing the square and performing drills. Tiananmen Square was in the global spotlight in 1989 when hundreds if not thousands of people were killed by police during protests for democracy. After passing through the square we entered the Forbidden City which served as home for Chinese emperors for almost 500 years. The palace features traditional Chinese architecture, which was absolutely breathtaking.

Schwabe 4After spending the morning at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, we hopped on the bus to Juyongguan Pass and the Great Wall of China. Many of us fell asleep on the bus, due to the heat of the morning on the pavement, only to awake to a lush mountainscape in the Guangou Valley. We quickly refueled with a traditional Chinese lunch at a local restaurant then started our trek up the Wall. The Juyongguan Pass is a scenic part of the Great Wall, featuring lush forests and streams. The World Heritage Site was built over two thousand years ago as a military stronghold. The steps varied in length and height, making the climb extremely challenging. At times, it felt like you could fall off the edge. We passed through 12 towers to reach the highest point. I had made it to the seventh tower when my fear of heights overtook me. I sat down while the rest of the group Schwabe 3continued walking. For a moment, I felt like that was enough; I could stay there and wait for my peers to finish the trek. As I took in my beautiful surroundings, I reminded myself how proud I would be after reaching the top, and that if I just took it one step at a time, I might be able to get there. Reaching the summit was exhilarating and a personal achievement. The view was amazing with mountains stretching off in the distance on one side, and downtown Beijing on the other. It was a spectacular way to wrap up our visit to China.

Scwabe 2

Comments are closed.