Do the Chinese think Westerners look all alike?

This video seems to suggest so. In the West, there’s some who think Asians, especially those from China, Japan, and Korea, look pretty much the same. There’s even a famous website that challenges you to tell the difference.

But perhaps less-than-honed cross-border facial recognition is a universal problem. It seems in China, Westerners all look the same too. In this clip, a BBC reporter is confused for Michael Phelps. Hilarity ensues.

Behind the Olympics: Anyone else desperately trying to buy tickets?

So I’m some two years behind the curve when it comes to buying Beijing Olympic tickets. There’s been several phases of ticket sales, and suffice to say, finding one now is about as easy as finding a good surf spot in the Sahara.

I’ve already come across eBay auctions of closing ceremony tickets for $20,000, granted the poster was nice enough to offer a “buy one get one free” sale.

If you’re still keen on catching an event or two before the end of the Games this Sunday, here’s a cheat sheet on, well, not getting cheated.
First, a disclaimer. If you’re thinking about buying tickets at this stage, be prepared to see your money disappear. There’s just so many scams out there that getting a ticket now has turned more into a lottery. For instance, just this past weekend, some 100 scalpers were rounded up for selling tickets at inflated prices in Beijing. And a month or so ago, one notorious website was shut down for selling fake tickets.

But there are still some ways to find ticket. Your options are:

  • Official ticket vendor. For Americans and some other Westerners, the official ticket vendor is CoSport. Although they don’t advertise it too much, you can still land tickets to some of the less popular events the day before the event.
  • Craigslist. For those who want to see some of the more popular events–closing ceremony, 10 m diving, basketball gold final–Craigslist‘s Beijing page is your best bet. Go to tickets, where you’ll find plenty of people buying and selling tickets. Be careful though, lots of scammers here who will be happy to take your MoneyGram and Western Union transfers and run.
  • Bird’s nest. If you want the cheapest tickets, the best deals can often be found outside the venues. Just look for scalpers, many of whom are bold enough to drape huge signs over themselves advertising their prices. Probably the safest bet since you’ll be able to see the tickets. Just make sure to bring plenty of cash.
  • Third-party vendors. There’s a handful of companies that will gladly sell you Olympics tickets for a profit. One of the more popular ones, with plenty of popular events still available, is here.
  • BOCOG. Word on the street is the Beijing organizing committee keep 2% of seats for last-minute emergencies. So if you beg and cry loud enough, who knows?

See you in Beijing!

Olympic Fever in Hong Kong?

Though it has been officially part of China for 11 years now, Hong Kong’s athletes marched into the Games under their own flag. Beijing’s goodwill gesture of holding the equestrian events in Hong Kong was welcomed, but Olympic fever has seemed slightly muted in the former British colony.

Yes, Hong Kongers aren’t as excited about the Olympics and the success of team China as mainlanders are, but that doesn’t mean they are not following the Games closely. And, with no athletes expected to earn worldwide attention, Hong Kong has adopted some PRC stars as their own. Billboards featuring (now injured) Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang and hoops star Yao Ming are quite visible. Large screen TVs are broadcasting events in public spaces and crowds are stopping to watch.

But what does Hong Kong really think of Beijing’s coming out party? The mainland is already swallowing up Hong Kong’s once great film industry, and Mandarin is being heard in Kowloon and Central more and more every day. And now Beijing has grabbed the spotlight and captured the imagination of the world.

But Hong Kong has seemed to embrace the Games nonetheless.

They can start thinking about their future with Beijing after the Olympics have closed.

Just how does your national anthem go?

As of Friday, 27 different nations had won gold medals. That means 27 different national anthems have been played in honor of the winning athletes. The New York Times put together a complete list of all 27 anthems, including lyrics, history and music files so you can sing and listen to them to your heart’s content.

Here are links to five of them:

China: March of the Volunteers
USA: The Star Spangled Banner
Korea Republic: The Patriotic Song
Italy: The Song of the Italians
Germany: The Song of Germany

Click here for the complete list and the music files so you can start singing away at the next medal ceremony.

Olympics inspired congratulatory bouquets– Chinese style

Perhaps watching the Olympics has inspired you to congratulate the athletes in your life–or someone else with a spiffy accomplishment. Here’s an idea that has an Olympics and Chinese-flavored twist.

You could give the person a bouquet of flowers with Chinese symbolism. Jim Wells wrote a post on Flora2000’s blog that outlines just what you need.

  • You’ve probably noticed that the bouquets handed out during the medal ceremonies are red. Red is the color of good luck. Pink and yellow represent happiness.
  • The presenters also offer the bouquets with both hands which is the Chinese tradition.
  • If there is a congratulation note, it’s never written in red ink.
  • Also, eight is a lucky number, so eight flowers would be terrific.
  • Don’t give only four though, because four is unlucky.
  • Although yellow is a color for happiness, don’t give a yellow chrysanthemum–or a white one. Those are only used for funerals.

Jim’s recommendation for a perfect bouquet is one made of white and pink Oriental lilies and red roses. To be ultra classy, he says to give flowers from Europe. They are quite popular in China these days.

(At the time Jim wrote his post, Michael Phelps only had 5 gold medals. Weren’t those races something to watch?)