Beijing 2022

In case you are one of the millions of people world-wide who are scratching their heads at how Beijing, a city with virtually no snow and no history of winter sports was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, this article in the Christian Science Monitor may help (somewhat):

On Friday, the IOC chose Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, making Beijing the first city to host the Winter and Summer Games.

But those in attendance in Kuala Lumpur seemed to know what is now widely apparent: the Olympic movement had already lost.

The IOC cannot sprinkle gold dust onto Friday’s decision: It was a failure of the Olympic bidding process.

In other words, the selection of Beijing was the product of a broken system, one in which fewer and fewer cites seem to be willing to bear the cost of hosting the Games.

Even Bob Costas will not be able to gloss over the fact that Beijing is an excessively odd choice to host a Winter Olympics, as it lacks snow, mountains, or any discernible winter sports tradition. It won because the IOC had no other viable choice.

Yes, Almaty, Kazakhstan – the only city competing with Beijing – has mountains and snow in abundance, but not hotel rooms, or easy air connections to the rest of the world, or a name anyone who is not a subscriber to Foreign Policy magazine has ever heard of.

To choose Almaty would have been to accept an intolerable and potentially impractical contraction of the Olympics’ scope and grandeur.

To choose Beijing would simply be an intolerable inconvenience of time and space, and that is nothing the Chinese government can’t handle.

Like the whole “no snow” thing.

Translation (and apologies to my friends and readers in Almaty): the IOC seemingly had no choice.

When Oslo, Norway, and Krakow, Poland, and Stockholm all pull out of the bidding for reasons similar to Boston’s; when voters in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Munich reject proposed Olympic bids for reasons similar to Boston’s; and when no one in North America bothers to apply, you end up with – Beijing.

And lest you think this whole “no snow” thing is overblown, here’s a photo of the proposed alpine skiing area, taken in late January:

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I’m sorry folks (and I say this as a lover of Beijing), but that’s insane!!

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Friday Photo: Dog Sledding

A couple of weeks ago I went up to the North Shore of Lake Superior for a writing retreat. I stayed at the gorgeous Naniboujou Lodge, just north of Grand Marais. No phones; no TV; no Internet — a perfect place to get some writing done.

When I needed a break one afternoon I jumped in Big Red and headed for a drive along some of the back roads in the area.

Where else are you going to see fun signs like this?

dog sledding sign

I love Minnesota!

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A City the Size of Kansas

Here’s a question — is there a limit to how large a city can be and still be considered a city (as opposed to a province/state or region)? That question popped into my mind when I read an article in The New York Times recently about China’s plans to create a super-city by combining Beijing with some of its surrounding cities and provinces.

For decades, China’s government has tried to limit the size of Beijing, the capital, through draconian residency permits. Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people.

The planned megalopolis, a metropolitan area that would be about six times the size of New York’s, is meant to revamp northern China’s economy and become a laboratory for modern urban growth.

“The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin who advises local governments on regional development. “It reflects the senior leadership’s views on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.”

The new region will link the research facilities and creative culture of Beijing with the economic muscle of the port city of Tianjin and the hinterlands of Hebei Province, forcing areas that have never cooperated to work together.

To accompany the article, Jonah Kessel produced this excellent video to give you a glimpse of what this new “city” will be like.

And note this:

But the new supercity is intended to be different in scope and conception. It would be spread over 82,000 square miles, about the size of Kansas, and hold a population larger than a third of the United States.

So, to my original question — is a city the size of Kansas really a city?

Friday Photo: Qing Dynasty Man

The Temple of Heaven is one of my favorite places in Beijing. In addition to being a major tourist destination, it’s also a favorite park where locals hang out. There’s an area near the east gate where you can find people doing everything from playing cards to dancing, to singing old revolutionary songs. One day I spotted this fellow all dressed up like a Qing Dynasty official practicing his stringed instrument.

Why not?

singing in the temple of heaven

Smoke in My Eyes. In Minnesota!

When I lived in Beijing, we often had a weather forecast that was just one word: Smoke! It was usually in the fall, when the peasants in the surrounding provinces of Shandong and Hebei were burning the fields after harvest. The city would be shrouded in smoke, with off-the-charts bad air quality until it rained or the winds shifted to the north.

On Monday it was Minnesota’s turn. Smoke from wildfires burning in northern Saskatchewan descended on our fair state, making the air quality in Minneapolis worse than in Beijing.

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Talk about embarrassing!

 

Image #1: MyFoxTwinCities

Image #2: twitter.com/David Cooper, via MyFoxTwinCities

 

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Bilingualism is Good for the Brain

I ran across this interesting info-graphic on the Twitter feed of the good folks at Lingholic.com. It highlights how bilingualism is good for the brain.

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I like the idea of dimentia prevention. And the next time someone says I’m dense I’ll just tell them it’s my grey matter and that’s a good thing.

Image source: https://twitter.com/lingholic

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The Ruts are Still Visible

Even though I had come looking for them, I was still surprised at the sight — wagon wheel ruts and the footprints of a child in the weathered sidewalk of a small town on the Minnesota prairie. I had seen them before, back in the 1960’s, but did not expect that they would still be visible today.

rust in the pavement

But there they were, evidence that a child had dragged his wagon through freshly poured cement on the sidewalk opposite the Baptist Church.

When my mother was born, her father was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Westbrook, Minnesota. She was the third of four children. Her only brother, Paul was the oldest, and he was the little boy who pulled his wagon through the cement.

In 1932 her father was called to pastor a church in central Oregon, so the family packed up the Model A and headed west, leaving behind the ruts and footprints.

Last week I was driving in southwest Minnesota and took a little detour to Westbrook to see if there was anything left of them. To my amazement, more than 90 years after they hardened, they are still visible.

I never knew my uncle very well because I grew up on the other side of the planet and he passed away shortly after we returned to the United States. From what I do know, he was a wonderful man. In the same way that the ruts of his wagon are visible in the sidewalk in Westbrook, so too are the ruts of his life visible in the lives of his daughters and grandchildren scattered around the country.

Well done, Uncle Paul!

May the ruts of our lives be visible decades hence as well.