Beijing 2008

Beijing’s Beijing 2008 blog covers the games from the lawyer’s perspective, with posts from lawyers and other legal professionals in the city on the Olympic events, the gossip, the law firms and the atmosphere.

The blog began with a surprisingly clean post from Beijing-based legal recruiter Rob Metcalf on, er, the women’s volleyball and how to chant ‘Go Beer!” in Mandarin, while Christoph Hezel of Taylor Wessing followed with news of a new area of control for the people’s party.

On Wednesday, Clifford Chance’s Mary Kok gave an insider’s perspective on the athlete experience regarding her daughter, Chinese swimming champion Stephanie Au Hoi Shun, while on Thursday lawyer and Beijing resident Peihua Yao reveals how she thinks hosting the games has changed the city for the better.

In the latest post, Norton Rose lawyer Steven Towell reports on improved behaviour from taxi drivers, the new vogue for queueing and how crowd chants really aren’t his strong suit.

To send us your own Olympic blog or photo, email me: Jon Parker, web editor

‘Bellies, behaviour and Badminton’
, Steven Towell
Friday 15th August, 11.30am

Over the past three and a half years in which I have been in Beijing I have been witnessing urban development on an amazing scale – many of these changes directly linked to the 17-day celebration that is the Olympics.

Some of the changes have been all too obvious: the dramatic change in Beijing’s skyline and the destruction of Beijing’s traditional narrow streets, the hutongs, and the forced relocation of their inhabitants; the fabulous Bird’s Nest and Watercube stadia; and a tube system that now actually takes you somewhere you might want to go.

In addition to the changes in urban infrastructure, there has also been a marked change in the dress, behaviour and habits of your average Beijinger.

Last year’s summer fashion for Beijing’s taxi drivers, for instance, was to roll up both trouser legs and to tie the white shirt into a knot to reveal a fine “general’s belly”.

Spitting was rife – especially by taxi drivers – and queuing was more of a theory than something that people might actually practice.

This summer, however, and over the past few weeks in particular, things have been different.

Taxi drivers have all been kitted out with smart lemon-coloured shirts and red and white-striped ties; spitting is rarely seen; and queuing is in vogue – undoubtedly a result of the government’s plan to make the 11th of every month queuing day, due to the number’s supposed similarity to two people standing one behind each other.

This change in approach is nowhere more obvious that in the Olympic venues themselves.

The Olympic volunteers are all impeccably turned out, polite and smiley, and are much less officious than at the rehearsal events held in recent months.

During one test event at the Bird’s Nest, one volunteer begrudgingly let a friend take in some life-saving medication, but only on the condition that since she had been warned on this occasion, she wouldn’t be allowed to take them in next time!

My Olympic highlight so far was attending the badminton and seeing British mixed doubles pair Emms and Robertson snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against China in a very tight encounter.

It was a great, if slightly intimidating experience, with over 90 per cent of the spectators Chinese, and probably no more than ten Brits in the crowd.

Faced with row upon row of Chinese supporters repeatedly, and very loudly, chanting “Zhongguo dui; Jia you” (basically “Come on China!”) we felt compelled to come up with our own chant.

This proved harder than we had anticipated, and all we could come up with was “1, 2, 3: Team GB!”

We left determined to come up with something better by 2012.

Steven Towell is a corporate finance and projects associate at Norton Rose, Beijing

Previous blogs

‘China’s IPO’, Peihua Yao
Thursday 14th August, 10am

‘From courtroom to pool’, Mary Kok
Wednesday 13th August, 11am

‘Points to remember’, Christoph Hezel
Tuesday 12th August, 11am

‘Go Beer!’, Rob Metcalf
Monday 11th August, 3pm