French caught in customs as we settle into MPC

From SJA Chairman, Barry Newcombe
Beijing, Monday:
We must not become too obsessive about the Beijing weather. But it’s hard not to avoid the fact that yesterday was sunny and bright and today began with smog which has not cleared by early evening.

So the score after two days here is Blue Sky 1, Smog 1, and it is not surprising that the strong rumour is that the Chinese will manipulate the weather in time for the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

One colleague, who has been based out here for several months, posted this message to our Secretary yesterday:

“You would not believe it … for the past three months the weather has been crap. Now – three clear days one after the other … How do they do it ?

Well, ask anyone who lives by the outer fourth ring road and they will remind you of the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of the rockets as the Chinese pepper the skies with all sorts of chemicals to make it clear.

Don’t believe what you read – believe what you inhale.”

The BBC’s Tom Fordyce has posted this interesting take on the pollution issue today: either the air conditions are pretty bad, or he just needs to get fitter.

â–¡ Among the winners today was the British media, who collected their new team handbooks from the BOA, while the losers included the French contingent whose handbooks were held up in Chinese customs. Around half a dozen journalists heading to Beijing from London were held up by passport checks.

â–¡ I was interviewed and photographed by The Australian newspaper, whose journalists seemed amused by the fact that the BOA office, which I run in the MPC, was neither big nor busy. My answer was that everyone was out hunting stories, and there were no athletes around because they were all being busy preparing to beat the Aussies wherever they could, especially in cycling.

â–¡ Colleague Philip Barker, who has been in Beijing for a day or two before me, filed this report after quickly getting to find his way around the massive MPC:

In some ways, the Beijing MPC is much easier to negotiate than the MPC in Athens. However, although the maps on the walls have room numbers, the rooms themselves don’t.

London 2012 has a presence here on the ground floor, so is relatively easy to find. The main workroom is vast. The photographers are below ground.

The press pack which you collect on arrival actually contains some useful items, not least a bottle of mosquito repellent and cream in case they get through the defences. If you forgot to pack an adapter plug for your laptop, don’t worry, there’s one in the pack along with a pair of sunglasses and some baby wipes.

The main dining area is also below ground and they’ve been offering a variety of food from the traditional Chinese, but there are also other options including pasta, a little on the pricey side for the portions offered but quite tasty for all that. On some days, complimentary teas and coffee can be found with a selection of cakes.

The bus service is so far efficient, and there’s a real innovation here. They do the security procedures at the hotel, so once you’re on bus it is straight on to the MPC with no security check at the other end. That could prove a real time saver.

â–¡ Today marked the 62nd birthday of Reuters veteran Paul Majendi. He is standing down after 40 years with the agency and is thinking of working as a travel writer. Congratulations to him as he plans a fresh career.

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