Guest post: Dispatches from China, Part IV

Posted on May 24th, 2007 – 10:25 AM
By Michael Rand

000000000000001plaza.jpgPaige Bromen, a junior on the U of M golf team, is in China studying the globalization of sports in conjunction with the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She checks in with Part IV of her odyssey:

After a week in Beijing, our professors sent us off to fend for ourselves. Of course, just exploring wouldn’t be enough; we made it into a competition. The actual prize was small — a meal at McDonald’s — but the ramifications of bragging rights could last for years. As my roommate, Molly Watters stated when we learned of the prize, “I don’t even like McDonald’s; I’m playing for pride.” Groups of three were chosen by our professors breaking up roommates and Chinese speakers to make it as fair as possible. Then, each group was assigned 12 tasks to be completed by 4 p.m. The tasks ranged from who could eat the most authentic Beijing meal to who could find the best example of Olympic spirit within the Hutongs (alleyways) of the city.

To make things a little more interesting, my teammates, Meghan Anderson, Tommie Ng, and I decided to rent bikes. After all, how boring would it be to just walk? We scoured the streets looking for the most interesting things and the best photos. Near the end, we stumbled upon the “International Plaza.” The complex plays host to athletes of all ages training in an attempt to make their respective Olympics teams. At the track (pictured), we saw 6-8 year olds running 400 meter laps and 50 meter sprints. The rest of my groupmates were awestruck, but I definitely remember running wind sprints on the soccer field by the time I was in 2nd grade. On a more reflective side, the differences between the Hutongs and the International Plaza were immense. In the Hutongs, the living conditions were, at least by Westerner standards, decrepit at best; in the Plaza, many of the rooms overlooked an atrium full of plants and fish-filled ponds. I don’t quite know how the living conditions can be so disparate and how it seems like some parts of the city can just be forgotten by the government. But for now, I just hope that the athletes appreciate the gift they have been given.

Tonight I’m off for a little shopping and dinner. Afterwards some of the group might go play basketball again, although I might stay back and tune up for the thing I’ve been looking forward to the most, a round of golf! Sad, I know, that I’m in China yet the number one thing on my list to do is something I do everyday at home. I guess over the last 10 years, golf has become such a part of my life that not playing it feels wrong.

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