Spontaneity and travel go hand-in-hand. Those surprising moments, when we let down our guard and something unexpected happens, is what travel is all about, right? Today’s photo, from Flickr user Gus NYC, looks to me like one of those spontaneous moments. A brilliant red wall. A guard caught in a moment of repose. A photographer who’s cleverly framed the shot so it’s all pushed oddly to the right. It’s a strange subject for a photo, but it nevertheless manages to leave the viewer wanting more.
Remember the Olympics? This photo from the Closing Ceremonies in the National Stadium was taken by pirano. Notice the dancers on the balls, seemingly suspended in mid-air. Will we ever see another Olympics with such an impressive Opening and Closing Ceremonies?
Start practicing your large-group dancing, Londoners.
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If you’re watching the Olympics on TV, you’re quite familiar with the over-the-top athletic venues here. To say they boast a “wow” factor is an understatement. These testaments to China’s growing architectural prowess (or at least their deepening wallets, as most of the designs are by foreign architects) are sure to be tourist destinations long after the end of these Games.
But if you’re a bit confused as to what’s the bird’s nest versus the bird’s egg or whether the water cube is made out of water, here’s a cheat-sheet for you.
- Bird’s nest. Its official name is the National Stadium, but locals and foreigners alike will forever call it by what it looks like. This venue hosted the epic opening ceremony, which culminated in a torch lighting never seen before (Chinese gymnast Li Ning “ran” or “flew”, depending on how you see it, around the stadium’s rim on wires). Now it’s host to the track and field competitions along with some soccer bouts.
- Water cube. An iconic venue in its own right, the water cube sits right next to the nest. Again, its official name is more staid: the Aquatics Center, which houses some 17,000 people here too watch swimming and diving. And those bubbles? No water inside–they’re made out of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), a plastic.
- National Indoor Stadium. The lack of a cute name should clue you in. Not much of an architectural gem here, unless you’re into the whole communism school of thought. You’ll be stuck here if you have tickets for gymanstics, handball, or something called trampoline (and no, this stadium isn’t in someone’s backyard).
- Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park. Considering that China makes its first Olympic debut in rowing–a sport it’s literally invested millions upon millions–this facility is quite remarkable and worth a visit, if nothing else to do some kayaking or rowing and escape the fumes in the city.
- Peking University Gymnasium. Possibly the poshest college gym ever, this new facility–get this–holds nothing else but ping pong matches. It’s well worth the visit because you’ll be on the campus of historic Peking University, the Harvard of China, with its spectacular Asian scenery and little temples on lakes.
- Terminal 3. Host of the hang-gliding events (OK, I wish), terminal 3 is the newest addition to Beijing’s rather flimsy airport. But Norman Foster’s newest creation, in the shape of a giant plane, boasts some 60 restaurants and 80 restaurants. It’s also the biggest terminal in the world. You might have to fly here just to see an airport.
The Guardian writer, Jonathan Clancey, has been inside the main building and declares it “quite simply stunning.” The Chinese have named it Bird’s Nest when its creators–Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, working with Arup and the China Architectural Design and Research Group–unveiled their design five years ago. “Its mesmeric steel frame, 41,875 tonnes in all, loops, swoops and swirls over and around the great, red, concrete 91,000-seat arena. What had seemed to be a solid structure from a distance proves to be a filigree Chinese puzzle close up.”
The structure is almost complete, while the fit-out, with its shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and meeting places, is racing ahead. At times, there have been as many as 7,000 construction workers on site.
Say what you will about the Olympic-size megalomania, but there is no denying this is a gorgeous building..
Here’s a collection of some of the best pictures from Reuters taken this year. The one on the right is from a new aquarium that opened this summer in Qingdao, a beach resort town in China. That cute thing is a Beluga whale, and I guess that kid is kinda cute too.
The other picture taken in China was from the “bird’s nest,” or what the locals fondly refer to when they’re talking about the National Olympic Stadium in Beijing. It’ll be up by next year, when 90,000 spectators will be partying inside at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Some of the other pictures are somewhat more disturbing (spoiler: rat soup in Thailand). A nice pat on the back to Reuters for showing us photojournalism at its best!