Saturday, July 12, 2008

Harbin Olympic Torch Relay Live Journal

To commiserate Harbin welcoming the Olympic torch, I decided to keep a running journal of the TV coverage of the relay in Harbin. Later in the afternoon after the relay was over, I actually took a few pictures on the route and the beginning of the relay. Needless to say millions of other people were doing the same thing.

I also later saw a video on CNN showing off the best parts of the relay. That's cool.

7:50 We start on the Harbin TV channel. The pregame coverage includes traffic reports on the torch path, introductions on Harbin tourism and a brief overview of the torch relay.

8am The programming starts precisely at 8am. The relay starts at the flood monument, a symbol of Harbin. Floods destroyed Harbin throughout its history until 1958 in which the flood gates were built. This monument commiserates that achievement.
The first speaker introduces the vice Mayor of Harbin. Before she can come on stage, she is introduced with the theme song of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Random.

8:06 The first torch bearers are the famous figure skating pair. They do a combined length. My mom: I love the first relay. They run on the red carpet. At the end of their leg, the guy picks up the girl in a pose. How cool is that?

8:08 The first transfer was less than successful. Wacky camera work and a lot of Harbin dudes in Black Ts surround the torch. People blocked the route and the guys in the Black Ts went to action. As they progress through the first street, you can see officers, Olympics officers and Black Ts getting into a confrontation with people in the crowd.

8:10 My grandparents and my mom have all commented about the quick transfer process. Mom: “You now they all gave money and bought the right to be apart of the relay. They’re all really rich.”
Grandma: “You know that there are gonna be some laundry ladies out there later on too.”

8:13 The 12th person is a random white dude. Every guy gets an introduction and some commentary. Before he could get into a job, he quicly passes it off to the next dude. The next dude, accepts the torch and does a kung fu move. Awesome. Just Awesome.
The transfer process is really interesting. After the “10 step trip” as my grandma says, each person quickly transfer it to the next person. After the lighting on the 2nd person’s torch, the 2 of them do a simulated performance/pose/celebration. Usually it’s an awkward hand slap where both miss each other. The best is when one person tries to do their prearranged move while the other person is awestruck by the moment and totally forgets what to do. Really funny.

8:17 A dude with a pony tail.

8:19 A guy who has fixed tens of thousands of shoes for free. Only in Harbin. A female support runner next to the torch barriers constantly waves at the camera when the transfers are made. When someone realized it, she gets pulled out. The torch is put onto a van and carried to the next torch area.

8:26 We transfer over to the CCTV 5 coverage of the torch relay. During their introduction of what Harbin is like, they just opened up a bag introducing a huge piece of bread. “Da weiba.” It’s a hard bread specialty of Harbin that originated from Russian influence. This bread is the reason my mom loves French bread. Combine that with the “soupa tang” or soup soup – a tomato based soup with tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes and we got a hearty meal.

8:31 The vehicle transfer is over… on with the relay. We’re at a much wider street now. Behind the runner, there are a total of 4 male support runners, 2 on each side.20 meters back on either side are 20 guys running along the crowd wearing all white. About 50 meters back, there are 5 motorcycles and behind them is a trail of minibuses, cars, vans, at least 30 vehicles.
We’re now running on the famous Harbin bridge that I almost fell off of – into the Songhua river – when I was 5 years old.

8:37 A old lady finishes her part of the relay and almost strangles the next girl. After the girl starts running, she keeps on running along behind the group, confused and not knowing what’s going on. No one notices what she’s doing and no one controls her until the next transfer. Way too funny.

8:41 The 40th guy starts dancing and does superman poses during his leg. He almost makes out with the next guy before transferring.

8:52 Harbin channel is split-screening the tour coverage with information on the ice lantern festival. I think I’m going to have to come back next winter to see it. Our family friend is in the Harbin tourism bureau and is charge of putting on the festival every year.

8:59 We’re now passing the Harbin Science Museum. Harbin is known throughout the country for its science knowledge and knowhow. It is in the forefront of robotics and is a big contributor to the Chinese space agency’s manned program.

9:02 Interesting Fact: Harbin is the only Chinese city without a city wall or hasn’t had a city wall in its history.

9:05 Harbin Fencing coach does 4 fencing moves during her leg. Everyone’s surprised.

Best Quote…
Mom: Chinese people are really bad at giving a high five. They should be like Obama’s wife and just do the pound. You know that’s the new high five right? Did you see her go on the View and give everyone the pound?

9:06 Grandma: Is this a guy or girl?

9:12 This guy sells roast duck. He’s not walking, he’s not running. He’s niuyangge.

9:15 A random Chinese guy in an army uniform gets his friend to take a picture of him right behind the runner. He is enabled by the 20 photographers who run in front of the runner van, temporary stopping the procession.

9:21 A girl running as a support runner is lumbering through. She’s not only fat but panting. I don’t know how she got that job.

9:23 Another white guy.

9:27 After not understanding previously, of the 4 support runners, only 2 of them in the front are security members. They wear hats, wear black gloves and help in the different transfers. The 2 people behind them are people who was supposed to be a torch barer but wasn’t able to because of the reduced length of the relay. So, instead of being an officer barer, they run behind the security members for an extended amount of time.

9:30 30 minute break in the relay.

9:30-10:15 Constant information about Harbin, the tourist sights, the food and sites. Very ignorant understanding by the CCTV people. “It seems that southern people have very little understanding or knowledge of Harbin while Harbin people know a lot about the south.”

10:25 Coke has 2 consecutive torch bearers followed by 1 from McDonald’s. I guess the official sponsors of the Olympics should get some perks.

11:00 We finally have a couple of younger people along the route that do something interesting and different.

11:06 “Is that a guy or girl?”

11:12 “That’s a girl right?”

11:14 The final torch bearers are another figuring skating pair. Of course when they first receive the torch, the guy picks up the girl and keeps her up there for about 5 min. In the competition for the most "unique pose" after people receive the torch, it definitely ranks up there. They run across the red carpet to the Sun Island statue. 11:17 “I wonder how much money they spent to make this happen.” “What are they going to do with all that money anyways?”

11:19 People are throwing up sunflowers in the air during the closing ceremonies. They’re wearing yellow tshirts to match the sunflowers.

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