Venue operations team members posing for souvenir picture in front of the Bird's Nest on Monday. (Greg Baker/AP)
BEIJING: There is one expression in English that every Beijinger seems to know. You heard it from bus drivers as they opened the door, from volunteers as they ushered the last journalists out of the work room at a venue at 3 a.m. and from taxi drivers as they handed over the receipt: "Bye-bye."
As the circus fled town Monday, there was still time for one last bye-bye to Beijing, as with uncanny punctuality the haze and humidity returned to smother the city.
The wide, straight walkways of the Olympic Green were almost deserted. There was just the traffic lights' angry burping for blind pedestrians and the industrial stridulation of a few cicadas. There were volunteers photographing each other. There were, of course, the uniformed guards standing stiffly to attention at the barriered Bird's Nest.
All this will open up again on Sept. 6 for the Paralympic Games. But on Monday, there was still a sense of finality. The big party was over.
So were these Games "buzzy," as Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 committee, said, or "bland," as The Times of London had it?
The first thing that needs to be said is that for the athletes (and the media), much of the Games experience is determined by the International Olympic Committee and, to a lesser extent, by the international sports federations. As members of the London team keep saying when asked how the London experience will differ, 80 to 85 percent of the Games is transferable.
The IOC learned its lesson in Atlanta, where the inability of the hosts to run an efficient bus service for athletes and journalists created a wave of criticism. It worked hard in Beijing to create a bubble in which the journalists could work and the athletes could compete with minimal hassle; from inside, the bubble looked much the same in Beijing as it did in Athens and Sydney.
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