Party by the Bird’s Nest!


Five years ago today, the Beijing Olympics kicked off with its opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest. I watched, mesmerized, half a world away and was glued to my television set throughout those Summer Olympic games. That’s where I fell in love with Michael Phelps and his mom. It was a magical summer.

Naturally, during my last visit to Beijing, I was thrilled to stop by the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube and walk on the same ground where thousands of Olympians had walked. That seemed like enough. But during this trip, my husband thought we ought to take a walk there at night and see the buildings lit up. It seemed like a great idea. And judging by the massive hordes of people jamming the Olympic Green subway station, half of Beijing had the same great idea. It was the only time we were overwhelmed by the crush of people we’d expected to encounter every time we rode the subway.

But it was worth it.


The Olympic Green at night was like a great big impromptu party. There was music, food, and all sorts of vendors selling trinkets and flying kites. They threw spinning light toys into the sky. Children ran and laughed and played. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube were brilliantly lit, as was the platform structure that had housed the torch.

We strolled along, enjoying the sights and the festival atmosphere, along with people from all over the world who busied themselves posing for pictures in front of the stadium like we did. It was one of the best nights we had in Beijing. So unexpected, and so easy. I’m glad we braved the crowded subway and went.

Sigh… if only Michael Phelps had been there, too.

Are you an Olympics junkie?


24 responses to “Party by the Bird’s Nest!

  1. looks like more useful than what’s left from Expo in Shanghai – most of exhibitions are gone/closed, only thing left is a part that will be a shopping mall and a big red thing πŸ˜€

    • I believe the Bird’s Nest is now used for concerts and that the Water Cube is stil used for swimming, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m glad the buildings are still standing, anyway. They’re beautiful!

  2. What great photos – I love the colors of the lights. I always love watching the Olympic events; they are so much fun, and I love how we all become incredibly judgmental while sitting on the couch (“oh, did you see how his hand pointed down? That was terrible form. Tsk, Tsk.”). Such amazing athletes and it so often comes down to milliseconds!

    • LOL! We do become quite the armchair experts don’t we? Even funnier, for some reason I decide that I can do these sports, too. Usually ice skating. So I head to the rink, lace up some rental skates, and stumble on the ice immediately. πŸ™‚ The Olympic athletes make it look so easy.

      • I close my eyes and imagine that I’m actually performing at their level (this works better for diving and swimming than it does for other kinds of sports… especially when it concerns closing the eyes).

  3. It’s always interesting to see what happens to the Olympic Venues once the games are over. I’m looking forward to going around the London site when it reopens as it’s going to be a huge park area.

  4. I admit, I didn’t have very high expectations before the Beijing Olympics since I had heard they needed to do a LOT of cleanup work and organization for the city. But once I saw the opening ceremony and the entire stadium, I was really impressed. I’m glad they thought of lighting it up at night for people to go visit.

    • The opening ceremony and these architectural gems were really impressive. It changed my opinion (and much of the world’s) about Olympic opening ceremonies. I’m glad they’ve preserved the buildings and light them up at night. They’re beautiful.

  5. Yes, we’re big Olympics junkies — especially gymnastics. Sadly, we only saw the Bird’s Nest from a distance. It was closed for cleaning while we were there.

  6. Great photos Juliann and good the iconic stadia remain an attraction.
    Letizia is correct about us all becoming experts. In 2002 the GB women’s curling team won gold and, by the final, 60 million people knew all the rules and terminology and stayed up late roaring advice at the TV πŸ™‚

  7. I lived near that area for nearly 4 years. The construction basically unfolded before my eyes. I, however, was too busy to document it. It was considered to be on the fringes of town before all the Olympics construction came. There was no good way to reach my house(and I lived on the main artery that connects the entire city) before all the new fancy subways was finished. It was something like 4km to the nearest subway station at second ring road. One can tell that every single business/real estate owner/developer was waiting for the games in the nearby area. Some couldn’t hold out and some did. Interestingly, during a renovation of a nearby hotel (perhaps changed owners), a TGI Fridays was closed down.

    By the time 2007 rolls around, there was massive money pouring in to the surrounding area and the rent sky rocketed. I then moved to a place near the drum tower and that was pretty cool.

    It’s great that you guys had fun. Personally, if I were to visit Beijing, I would do it outside peak season. Then you can pay substantially less and avoid the crowd. But, maybe that wouldn’t be as exciting for some.


    • I can only imagine how incredible it would be to watch something like this happen right in your neighborhood. I’m so glad Beijing has left the buildings standing as a sort of tourist attraction because the architecture and the atmosphere were just incredible. Thanks for sharing a personal glimpse into what it was like there.

      Living near the Drum Tower would be neat, too. I like that area.
      Now that you mention it, maybe the next time I’m in Beijing on business (in the off-season), maybe I’ll go back and see how it compares to the summer crowds.

      • lol, it wasn’t that romantic living there while all the construction was going on. I’ll spare you the complaints from locals. πŸ˜›

        I just checked the google map, and it was even closer than I thought. It was probably a 20 mins walk but that entire section was walled off for construction so most taxis learned to avoid it. It’s kinda funny now since they can’t book enough events to stay afloat after the Olympics, so they are now building a mall into the complex to attract more tourists. Bird’s Nest might become a “ghost”stadium like all the “ghost” cities in China.

        I lived 15 mins walk from Guloudajie subway station. It’s pretty close to everything. It’s about a 35 – 40 (from the house, not the station) mins walk to the ShiChaHai lotus market gate if you don’t take the short cut. Of course, taxis hated us since it only costed 10 RMB to get to my place from the Lotus market gate. From there, you can get to some of the best attractions of Beijing by walking. JingShan, Beihai, and if you have the legs, walk around the Forbidden Palace. That is more interesting than what is inside. JingShan park also offers excellent views of the entire Beijing city but not all group tours include it.

      • Good tips! I have been to all of the parks you mention and enjoyed seeing the locals singing, dancing and exercising there, as well as playing different games. The views from JingShan were spectacular.

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