Dominic Fitzsimmons
Aug 21, 2008

The Olympic Green - exposed

In the same way that last week's storms cleared the skies above Beijing, the start of the athletics at the iconic 'Bird's Nest' National Stadium has brought the crowds, breaking the drought of visitors on the Olympic Green.

The Olympic Green - exposed
We sent Dominic Fitzsimmons to potter through the sponsor’s village fete to see which pavilions are worth queuing up for...


An exhibition of equipment through the ages places tracksuits in glass cases as if they are some sort of nylon Rosetta Stone; a cool screen that spirals down alongside the ramp plays a loop of Olympic highlights. Surprisingly for a sportswear brand, adidas have chosen to focus on previous bests, but no interactivity and no games means no fun.
Highlight: The clever spiral screen.
Verdict: Liu Xiang - promised so much, delivered little.

“Wow! You mean if I pick up the phone, dial a number, take the ticket and give it to the lady with the synchronised swimmer’s make up… you’ll give me a ship’s wheel keyring which breaks almost immediately? I hope your policies are better.”
PICC have gone for a nautical theme, with a boat-like structure, exhibitions through little portals and some boat games. Outside, a stunt basketball team go through the motions looking bored.
Highlight: Rowing boat race machine.
Verdict: Eric the Eel - A bit of a joke and a waste of an Olympic spot.

The building is covered with coarse grass, which strikes a cool green theme, but inside the mask slips and you are faced with an exhibition every bit as sexy as you would expect from a petrogiant with links to the Chinese state.
Highlight: Stand by the topographical map of China’s oil fields and pretend you are a Bond villain.
Verdict: The Chinese female gymnastics team - Proof that it’s not how you look, it’s how good your connections are.

Have your photo taken with one of two torches but skip the dull promo film and give the expensive hardwear just a polite glance before elbowing your way to the front of the queue to play computer games.
Highlight: Watching a pensioner play Guitar Hero clad in their free Lenovo sun visor.
Verdict: Guo Jing Jing - Part of the Chinese establishment, yet still cool enough to get caught out after curfew.

An exhibition that takes in all of Coke’s long association with the Olympic Games (well, nearly all of it - the stuff for 1936 is a bit scant) There’s a film that seeks to explain ‘Shuang’ - Coke’s new slogan. There is a hall full of giant Coke bottles, decorated from artists all over the world - very cool and in danger of upstaging the torch in the next room as a venue for photographs.
Highlight: The free bottle on the way out and the fact they have employed an enthusiastic boy to high-five passing punters.
Verdict: Michael Johnson - Impossibly American and ruthlessly successful.

State Grid
A bizarre display, the highlight of which is the life-size model of workers valiantly putting up a pylon in the snow - the video show of a ballet depicting the same sort of heroism has to be seen to be believed.
Highlight: Free internet. 
Verdict: Call the drug testing unit.

Bank of China
Walk under the arch of water into the marble interior to queue up and have your photo taken with the torch. And that’s about it.
Highlight: Torch photo op.
Verdict: The sport of weightlifting - It’s in the Olympics but it’s not much fun to watch.

Johnson & Johnson
As soon as you join the queue for this pavilion, a feeling of cool washes over you thanks to the ample shade provided by a bamboo grove, a fine mist drifting off the building’s water features and the air conditioning wafting out of the front door. A set of TV presentations and glass-clad exhibits keep some of the crowd from rushing to queue up for the main attraction - the Terracotta Warriors. Visitors are locked into a small room and made to watch a film showing how the pottery privates caught a nasty fungal infection - subsequently cured by J&J - before they can get very close to five warriors.
Highlight: The fact that Olympic tourists get to see the Warriors and save on a trip to Xian, reduces the large carbon footprint that comes with providing the whole green with air-con.
Verdict: Usain Bolt - So far out in front it’s disappearing over the horizon.

China Mobile
SMS a vote on your favourite Olympic photograph and receive a set of stickers and no doubt a lifetime of junk text messages. Move on to write a wish on a touch-sensitive screen, play a kids’ sports game to see it beamed out of the top of the ‘wishing tree’. The naff Chinese culture performances should be avoided. 
Highlight: Mischievously writing naughty messages and then seeing them projected onto the ceiling.
Verdict: The China basketball team - Very Chinese, quite good, but still a bit rubbish.

Standing in the queue you are presented with a mission statement subtly set across the front. ‘Earth, metal, fire, wood and water meet another important element. Imagination.’ So far, so corporate, but the inside really does make good the boast. After the obligatory dull video in a beautifully air-conditioned space, halls introduce each of the Chinese elements and highlight GE’s work in that field with a mixture of cool presentations and fun little games that are popular with kids and adults alike.
Highlight: The water projected on the floor that ripples as you walk across it - makes any man into Jesus. 
Verdict: Michael Phelps - Fulfilled the task with ruthless efficiency and a touch of flair.

Unless your connections are good enough to get you into the inner sanctum, this is nothing more than a glorified car showroom; albeit one with a bus queue of old ladies jostling to get hold of an Olympic torch.
Highlight: The opportunity to watch pensioners wrestling.
Verdict: Rafael Nadal - Flash and just turned up to show off.

Little more than the sort of mobile phone showroom that can be found at any electronics mall or shopping centre. A set of tubes jut stalactite-like from the roof’ stick your head into them and listen to music played through Samsung’s latest MP3 headphones.
Highlight: The huge TV screen allows you to catch up on the sports action.
Verdict: The US basketball team - in Beijing to raise their own profile and do business.

The photo exhibit is a good reason to come here, but the main reason hordes pack this small space is to upload their photos onto computers and print out Olympic postcards.
Highlight: Podium photo opportunity.
Verdict: Nini the Fuwa - Cute, fun, but a bit lightweight.
Campaign China

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