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August 25, 2008

Beijing’s Ghost Town

About ten hours after the end of last night’s closing ceremony, I headed to the Olympic Green, completely unsure of what I’d find when I got there. I hadn’t heard much about when the Green will open to the ticketless public, or if it would stay open until the Paralympics -- so I knew it would either be packed to the brim, or completely deserted. I arrived to find the latter.

When I approached the Olympic subway line, the streets packed with tourists and scalpers just yesterday were now empty, and only one of dozens of security checkpoints to access the subway was open -- and there wasn’t even anyone in line. Unsure if my accreditation card would still be valid, I approached the checkpoint to find a guard waving me through. Two of the guards were even taking a nap -- it was obvious that I was their first customer for quite some time.

I’ve tried to limit the length of my entries in the past, but in this case, text is no match for photos, so I’m including nine. Captions will help guide you through today’s experience on the Olympic Green.

Subway line 8, which services the Olympic Green, is only accessible to staff, journalists, and ticket holders. Usually too full to fit all those waiting onto one train, I counted only 15 riders on my train today.

Spectators packed the green each day during the Olympics, posing in front of venues, visiting exhibits, and crowding around athletes and life-size Fuwa dolls. But only one day after closing ceremony, there wasn’t a single fan in sight.

Now Beijing’s most recognizable structure, the area in front of the Bird’s Nest was always a popular photo stop for tourists. Today, like everywhere else on the Green, it was completely empty.

After a couple hours alone on the Green, I decided to head to the MPC to find some friendly faces. Journalists were loading trucks with equipment, and making purchases at the Olympic store and post office. The food court was still open for those still at work, but the photo and media workrooms were almost completely empty.

Nikon representatives load boxes with equipment in the photo workroom. Canon and Nikon provided loaner equipment for photographers at no charge during the Olympics.

My first walk through the International Broadcast Center involved dodging equipment and journalists on the move as they raced to pack up gear before leaving Beijing.

With nothing to do on the Green, I decided to visit some of the venues I hadn’t been able to access before. Only three days after competition, workers had almost completely disassembled several levels of seating at the fencing hall.

Workers replace a Beijing 2008 sign at the Water Cube with one designed for the Paralympics, set to begin on September 6. Many of the signs at other venues and the MPC had already been replaced.

Crates of equipment sit in front of the former Today Show set near the Bird’s Nest on the Olympic Green.


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