Looking back at ’08 – 5 things no longer with us

We lost quite a bit in 2008. Several old banks are gone, the value of your house is probably gone, and in the world of travel several things disappeared for good as well.

I’ve listed 5 things no longer with us as we head into the new year. Come back in a few days to read my list of 5 things we gained in 2008, and keep your fingers crossed that things pick up a bit in 2009!

Aloha Airlines

In 2008, almost 80 airlines went bankrupt. I’m sure most of you were not too upset when Swazi Express Airways stopped flying, but one of the more popular airlines we lost was Aloha Airlines.

Aloha had been flying between the islands and the mainland since 1946, but 2008 would become their final year. As usual, rising fuel costs were cited as one of the main reasons they could not survive.

Another, probably more important reason for their demise, was an intense price war that broke out between Aloha and GO!. GO! started offering inter island flights to local residents for as little as $15.

In an ironic twist of events, the very airline that contributed to the collapse of Aloha has managed to purchase their name and will be renaming themselves “Aloha” next year.


Skybus Airlines

Airlines come, and airlines go. But seldom does this happen as fast as with Skybus. Skybus started operating out of Columbus, Ohio in May of 2007, and by April of 2008 it was grounded. The airline had set itself up like many European carriers, with flights to smaller secondary airports, a flexible pricing system and even forced people to dispose of all food and beverages before boarding the plane.

Once on board, food, beverages, snacks and pillows were sold, and 10% of the revenue became salary for the flight attendants.

The concept obviously looked good on paper, but their timing was horrible, and passengers did not care for the total lack of service. Skybus never published a phone number, and all communications with the airline had to be made through email.

In the end, their business model clashed with rising fuel prices, and the airline went under, stranding 1000’s of people at various airports around the country.


Free baggage allowance

Of all the perks the airlines took away from us in recent years, this is the one that is bound to hurt the most. I survived the removal of pretzels, I managed to deal with a 4 hour flight without a pillow, but forcing people to pay for their checked luggage is just cruel.

Of course, the natural effect this is having on passengers and their bags, is that people are now carrying more than ever on board the plane. The airlines still have a tad of compassion left, as their elite travelers are currently exempt from these new money making measures.


Berlin Tempelhof Airport

I’m sure more airports closed in 2008, but none of them were as important to aviation history as Berlin Tempelhof. The airport closed on October 30th, and will make way for a single Berlin Airport which is scheduled to open in 2011.

Tempelhof played a very important role in German aviation history, and was the home of Lufthansa for many years. Of course, the war transformed the airport, and the massive terminal building at Tempelhof was one of many buildings Hitler commissioned for the city. After the war, Tempelhof played a pivotal role in supplying food and other supplies during the Berlin Airlift.


The 2008 Chinese Olympics

The buildup to the Chinese Olympics was filled with scandals, anticipation and a lot of worrying.

In the end, the games went pretty much like clockwork. It’s always a little sad when such a long wait for something is over in just 2 weeks. The Chinese put on one heck of a show, in some of the most impressive sporting venues the world has ever seen.

Like with most Olympic events, before the games start, there is always a ton of bad news, rumors about incomplete facilities and some corruption scandals, but he Chinese managed to prove everyone wrong, and gave the world a great show as well as a nice view into their culture.

A Look Ahead at London 2012

The closing ceremonies of Beijing ’08 were not quite as spectacular as the opening ceremonies. Not quite, but almost. There were still plenty of people wearing LED lights, drummers and acrobats climbing tall structures.

London got a chance to do their “we’re hosting the next Olympics” skit. It sucked in comparison to the other performances of the evening. There was some guy who looked like an gray-haired Jimmy Page. (It was obvious that the Stones said no to the gig). And Beckham kicked a ball off the top of a bus that had magically converted into some sort of green lump.

While they shake off their Olympic withdrawals, some people are passing the time by guessing what the opening ceremonies are going to look like in ’12. Here are some of the ideas:

1. They will hire the cast and crew of the Beijing opening ceremonies and perform the exact same show.

2. They will tap a different film director, like Ridley Scott or Madonna’s husband, and offer an unlimited budget to create a series of whimsical dance numbers featuring soccer hooligans and those guards with the furry hats.

3. Beckham will be, under order of the queen, part of the ceremony. Fine, as long as he doesn’t have to say anything in that high-pitched cockney voice or take his shirt off.

Whatever they come up with, it’s going to be great. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait until 2011 to get their hands on some of the 7.7 million tickets up for sale.

The Birds Nest 360

I’ve seen a lot of photos of this years Beijing Olympics, but none of them impressed me as much as this massive panoramic photo made by Finnish photographer Kari Kuukka.

You’ll need to be patient when the photo loads, on my fast connection it still took almost a minute. Once the counter reaches 100%, use your mouse to drag the picture around, for a 360 degree image of the men’s 100 meter finals.

If you see something in the image you’d like to get a closer look at, use your SHIFT and CTRL buttons to zoom in or out. If you turn the image around, you’ll get up close and personal with some comedic photo journalists making funny faces, and if you look “down”, you’ll see the dome of the panoramic camera used to make this amazing photo.

(Image source: Kari Kuukka)

Beijing Weathers the Weather and Pollution

On August 8th, while the opening ceremonies were in progress, Chinese meteorologists had their eyes on the sky.

In the days before the Olympics, Beijing assembled its own Olympic-caliber weather team, choosing the cream of the crop from a pool of over 200 meteorologists. At one point on the evening of the ceremonies, the chief of these weather superstars, Guo Hu, ordered rockets to be fired to disperse rain clouds that seemed to be headed for the Bird’s Nest.

But the hot and hazy weather that came with the lack of rain was stifling. Though the air quality was better in Beijing than before the Games, the haze was still prevalent enough to cause concern. Some of the city panoramas broadcast by NBC on August 9th showed a haze that made Los Angeles look like the fresh air capital of the world.That’s probably why there were no rockets shot at rain clouds on August 10th and 11th. Not only did the rain ease the nearly 100-degree heat of the previous day, it doused the smog as well. Even as competitors in the women’s bicycle road race were skidding across pools of standing water on the roadway and crashing into water-filled ditches, commentators and athletes were commenting on how pleasant the air was. The air pollution index on the rainy days reached 38, well below the rating of 50 that the World Health Organization deems acceptable. By contrast, the pollution score was in the 70s last Saturday, well above the acceptable mark set out by WHO.

Xinhua News Agency, China’s official press outlet, says another round of rain will wash Beijing’s air over the coming weekend.

Thus far, the visiting members of the press have not made a big deal about the pollution. Most of the “glamor events” of the Games have been held indoors. When gymnastics and swimming end, the focus will be on the outdoor events of track and field. If the pollution index is high during the Olympic marathon, we may be seeing athletes don masks to keep the smog out of their lungs. Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, once the favorite to win the 26.2 mile race, has already dropped out, citing worries about the dirty air.

“Ugly” Girl was Cut from Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony last week in Beijing was quite memorable. The sheer magnitude of the spectacle was, in fact, almost unbelievable. When former Olympic medalist and millionaire clothing designer Li Ning made his lap around the roof of the Bird’s Nest without falling or extinguishing his torch, China must have breathed a collective sigh of relief. The whole thing went off without a hitch.

But a bit of controversy has come to the surface recently. Remember that little flying singer with the pig-tails who almost stole the entire show? According to the ceremony’s music director, Chen Qigang, she was simply mouthing the words.

That’s not really a controversy. Singing in front of so many people is a lot to ask of someone so young.

But wait. The little girl, Lin Miaoke, was not even supposed to be part of the show. She was a replacement for the original singer, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi. Yang was not going to lip-sync. What happened? A sore throat? Stage fright?

Government officials and the ceremony’s producers decided to cut Yang in favor of Lin because Yang, with her crooked teeth and baby-fat cheeks, was deemed too ugly.

Chen explained: “The reason why little Yang was not chosen to appear was because we wanted to project the right image…”

Yang’s voice was still heard on the stadium’s sound system. Apparently, Lin didn’t have the singing chops to match her good looks.

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