Posted by: andrewcockerham | February 13, 2010

Water Cube Adventure

Me and the mother of a gold medalist

Wednesday September 17, 2008 Tianjin, China 9:10 pm

The one major thing that I didn’t get to do at the Olympics (other than meeting Phelps or Nastia Liukin) was go inside the famous Water Cube.There were two reasons for this: 1) I didn’t arrive at the Olympics until the last day of swimming events and 2) swimming tickets were simply outrageously priced. The only way to get ahold of a ticket was to pay a scalper, and those tickets were running close to $1000 – way out of my price range, even for the Water Cube.

But I had a solution: I would come back to Beijing (the advantage of living in China close to Beijing) during the Paralympics to get into the Water Cube and watch some swimming. The ticket prices would be a fraction of the cost, and the main goal of seeing the inside of the Water Cube would still be accomplished.

So on my day off I set off to Beijing a day early to make sure I could get a ticket. I had the intention of buying my ticket directly form the ticket outlet instead of scalping it, which saves hugely on price. (though I would realize later it was impossible) I was going to stay one night in Beijing then see my event the next day. Through the help of a nice Chinese girl, I was able to successfully get on my train and to Beijing. All I had was an address in Chinese that a friend had looked up for me for where to buy a ticket. So I handed it to the taxi driver and off we went. My friend thought it was close to the station, but turns out it took over an hour and a half. Which was really unfortunate because as I go into the taxi I realized that I needed a restroom. It was a rough hour and a half. I finally arrived at what the taxi driver thought was the correct location, and went in. It took several minutes to find someone who spoke English, and they promptly told me that they don’t sell tickets there. I needed to go down the street about half a mile, but had to hurry because they closed in 10 minutes. After running down the street with my backpack, I rushed into the other bank breathing hard. The lady gave me a ticket and I took my spot in line. A few minutes later she came over and asked me for my passport. My heart dropped to the floor and I’m sure my face showed my disappointment. I did not have my passport. At first I thought I had simply forgotten it, and was kicking myself harshly.What kind of traveler forgets their passport? It was then I realized that my company had taken my passport to give to the police so I could register and receive my official work permit. This is only allowed to be done once you are in China and takes a few weeks. So I couldn’t have brought my passport anyway! I tried to give the lady my Texas Drivers License, but she said that would not do. I was starting to get really frustrated. Then she suggested that a Chinese person in line could purchase the tickets for me. This seemed like a perfect solution until I informed them I was looking for swimming tickets and she said they were all sold out. Argh! I figured I would just go by the stadium and try to scalp a ticket like I did for gymnastics before. By this time it was getting close to the deadline for when I had to check into my hostel, so I headed there first. Upon arrival, the first question they asked me was my name. And the second was one I was dreading: “Can I see your passport?” I told her the story and not only did she look skeptical, but she said I cannot stay in any hotel without a passport. The police will check and would shut down the hotel if they were caught. Now I was getting frustrated. She said if I had a copy of it that would work, but I would also need a copy of my visa – which was in my passport. After realizing that there was no way I could stay in Beijing that night, I took a casual dinner and got the last train back to Tianjin. Then returned to Beijing the next day and was able to scalp a ticket out front fro the swimming. So in the end it all worked out, thought it ended up being much more complicated than I had anticipated. The Water Cube is truly incredible. It is so much more stunning up close than on TV. And inside it is beautiful as well. I ended up sitting next to some Brits who were parents of one of the gold medalist swimmers! Pretty cool. It was cool to watch as they broke a world record! (paralympic) I learned about the different rankings of disabilities. Upon leaving the Water Cube, it had gotten dark, and while taking pictures (I took literally over 100) I realized that it changes colors on the outside! I got a picture (attached of me in front of it when it was red). It was a fantastic trip, and I’m so glad it worked out!

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