Thursday, August 07, 2008
Blogging from Beijing...
|It’s Wednesday, the heart of the business week. United Flight 889 bound for Beijing from San Francisco is normally filled with sales executives, software developers and entrepreneurs who travel the U.S.-China trade route. But not today, two days before Opening Ceremonies for 2008 Summer Olympics in the Chinese capital. The suits and khaki’s have been replaced by warm up jackets and sweat pants, shorts and t-shirts. Most have U.S.A. emblazoned across the back or lapel and most have a Nike swoosh.
For more than a week now, Americans—athletes, coaches, media members, government officials and spectators—have been filling the 345 seats of Flight 889. Today, I’m lucky. Favorable winds will make this a shorter trip than normal—11 hours and 24 minutes to Beijing, my first trip to the Far East and China.
The Olympic buzz onboard is everywhere. One pilot moving through the cabin before take off said the atmosphere reminded him of a football tailgate party. Flags, banners, bear hugs and high fives were the order of the morning as the plane filled. “We’re rooting big time for the U.S.” the flight attendant announced on the intercom as plane departed.
This flight carried mostly track and field and wrestling Olympians, including 100 meter gold medal favorite Tyson Gay (in first class no less) and 200 meter specialist and medal favorite Allyson Felix (talked about muscles), No egos on this plane, no celebrity cool, only athletes with a job to do—represent America at the world’s biggest and oldest sporting event.
Final thought: In a sure sign rising fuel prices are squeezing airlines passengers were encouraged to take United’s in-flight magazine because it may soon disappear. “Ladies and gentleman this may become a collector’s item. To save on weight you may not find these in your seat pockets much longer.”
Photos below: (top) Our plane, flight #889; (middle) Downstairs at the airport, as people come out of immigration; (bottom) Arriving at the new $2 billion Beijing Capital International Airport