I am freshly back from a too short trip to Beijing pertaining to weather support for the 2022 Winter Olympics. During the trip, I got a first-hand look at the construction of venues in the Yanqing competition zone, including the Alpine skiing facility on Haituo Mountain, spent three days discussing Olympic weather support with Chinese colleagues involved in meteorological forecasting and research for the games, and met with representatives of the Beijing Olympic Committee. It was an incredible trip, my first to China, and remarkably rewarding culturally and professionally.
I will cover my trip in a series of blog posts, which may come rapid fire or sporadically depending on jet lag and time as my travels continue next week (more to discuss on that eventually too).
I'm going to begin with a look at Beijing. My Chinese friends granted me a day of jet-lag recovery for my first full day in town, which I used to see as much as Beijing as possible, walking more than 20 km around the city.
The day dawned with thunderstorms, followed by persistent rain for a few hours. Undeterred, I thew on my hard shell and wandered around the hutong, narrow alleys with residences and shops that I had largely to myself early Sunday morning. Incredibly, I took no photos, but below is one of the nearby canals.
I eventually found my way to Jingshan Park, with views of what I think is Beijing's highest building (possibly under construction)
and the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City takes its name because no could enter without permission from the emperor. I think I heard something on my digital audio guide about the penalty for trespassing being death. The photos below are at the entrance to the city (immediately below) and in it. The grounds are extensive, with the Forbidden City considered the largest "palace" in the world.
There are also gardens on the grounds and ornate structures everywhere.
The Mountain of Accumulated Elegance pictured below was created from complex rocks collected from off site. I was told that the emperor would climb this and enjoy time with his concubines in the structure above. An in depth description of these activities would require a Mature Audiences rating upgrade for the Wasatch Weather Weenies and is not presented here.
I then worked my way around to the Imperial Palace and the famous photo of Mao Zedong (commonly known as Chairman Mao). This sits at the north end of Tiananmen Square.
Finally, I worked my way to the Lama Temple, which did not disappoint.
At this point, I was pretty spent. I had made a critical mistake in my plans. I may be a decent route finder in the mountains, but in cities, I'm out of my element. I had planned on going through the Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace from north to south, but this is not allowed. Thus, I had to keep working my way back and forth, basically doubling mileage. Much of this was in the rain, and although it was letting up and I was drying out, my legs had been good and clammy all day.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to find a brewery. I had heard there was a nearby microbrewery with ales, and indeed, a quick search on my phone turned up the Great Leap Brewery on an obscure hutong. It was well worth the stop as I enjoyed an extremely tasty IPA under the trees of their courtyard.
All in all a good day despite some drippy weather.
Our next post will discuss the venue plans for the games, including the construction of the Yanqing competition zone and the Alpine skiing facility on Haituo Mountain. If you are up for a challenge, see if you find the access roads, runs, and lifts for Haituo Mountain on Google Earth. Hint: You can't. Nothing existed at that site when Google last updated their satellite imagery. By the 2019/20 winter, there will be a ski resort that will be serviced by high-speed rail for the Olympics.