Our flight out of Beijing was in the late afternoon, so we had a morning to do a little sightseeing around town. We wanted something low key that we could bail out of at any time. At first, we thought about visiting the Forbidden City, but soon realized that outside of high tourist season, the Forbidden City is closed on Mondays. We considered Tiananmen Square, but heard that just going for the square was underwhelming and not worth the taxi ride into the city. Since it is likely that we will be back in China at some point, we saved the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square for a different day, and took a shorter taxi ride from our hotel to Olympic Park.
The taxi dropped us off near the Bird’s Nest. Seeing it in real life was really neat- the architecture is so unique and different! The track and field world championships had just taken place there, so the banners and flags were still up advertising the event. Right next to the Bird’s Nest were the Olympic cauldron and a tall tower from which to survey the expanse of Olympic Park. Alongside the venues were ticket booths selling tickets to see the inside of each venue, and to go up the tower. Since we didn’t have a ton of time, and wanted to see the inside of the pool the most, we made our way toward the Water Cube first.
Beijing was just announced as the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. We were nervous when we saw that the Water Cube was surrounded by construction barriers. With both Austin and I being former collegiate swimmers, we really wanted to see the inside of the pool venue! We skirted around the barriers and found that the Water Cube was, indeed, open, and even had a water park and free swim in the Olympic pool available. We paid for the least expensive ticket to just get in and look around (30 yuan p/p) and went inside. Later on, this venue will be turned into the curling venue for the Winter Olympics.
I was pleasantly surprised by the state of the pools and stands. I had read an article about how the Olympic venues were in disrepair, but the pool looked great! The water was a beautiful color and I loved how the ceiling and wall bubbles let in so much natural light. The stands were smaller than I expected, but we were excited to see the pool where the Olympics took place! We walked along the stands for awhile, and then one of the Chinese tourists worked up the courage to ask for a picture with Landon. Immediately, Landon was mobbed by every Chinese tourist in the place who wanted pictures with him. He is used to it, so he cooperated for the most part, although he did not look at the camera or smile which was disappointing for some of the photographers.
Outside the pool in the atrium, there was a display with a recap of all of the major achievements that took place at the pool during the Olympics. My favorite was the caption under the picture of Michael Phelps. Apparently, “Michael Phelps won the Championship.” A fairly accurate statement, but not quite what happened.