It would be great to have a ticket, even one ticket, to an Olympic event. Truth is, though, that only a privileged few have their hands on these much-coveted items and for the rest of us, the Beijing Olympics will be experienced "second-hand", courtesy of television, radio and newspapers.
If that is how you feel on this most special of days, prepare to be uplifted! The city government will be laying on a network of Olympic Live Sites, full of everything you could possibly want during the Games. They are likely to be just as exciting as attending the events.
The idea was conceived by organizers of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and they were a smash hit. Families with children, friends out for a good time, people of all ages flocked to city squares and parks and created an unforgettable atmosphere. When the events were being broadcast, people stood up and sang along to the different national anthems and cheered on their favorite athletes as surely as if they were in the stadiums. The concept was then repeated to universal acclaim at the 2006 football World Cup in Germany, although alcohol was introduced and the venues targeted young sporting fans more than anyone else.
The Beijing sites will enable people to view tonight's opening ceremony and everything else until the end of the Paralympic Games on September 17 on large, high-definition TV screens and at the same time, party and enjoy cultural entertainment presented by Chinese and foreign performers.
An important part of the ongoing Olympic Cultural Festival, each of the 24 Live Sites has a center stage where performing troupes from China, Russia, Mexico, Malaysia, Africa and South America will give all sorts of shows. Visitors will also have access to exhibitions, licensed Olympic merchandise, souvenir exchanges, catering services, sponsor displays and information desks.
Beijing believes it will greatly enrich the Live Site experience with its inclusion of various singing, dancing, music playing and exhibitions. It will therefore keep the sports fans happy while also serving as a grand stage to present the best of Chinese culture to an international audience. Take your pick from acrobatics, Peking Opera, cross-talk and martial arts performances by art troupes from across the country, as well as displays of China's intangible cultural heritage and Beijing's folk handicrafts.
The Live Sites will also feature performances based on cultural groups' locations in Beijing's 18 districts and counties. Some venues will organize traditional Lantern Festivals based on regional styles.
"Residents and visitors are fully welcome to participate in those activities - that is just what the Olympic Spirit calls for," says Ruan Lanyu, one of the city government's main organizers of the Live Site project.
The performances, exhibitions and other facilities will be open to the public from 8 am to 10 pm daily.
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