Swimming Summer Diaries: Ryann Kopacka and Caroline Jones In China Part III

July 31, 2008

Photo Gallery (last updated July 31)

While many college students use the summer to relax by the pool, go to the beach and work as waiters and waitresses, members of the Georgia Tech Swimming Team are making full use of their time. Some are traveling the world, while others are getting a head start on their careers with some unique and interesting internships or jobs. RamblinWreck.com will give you a feel for what some of these student-athletes are doing with “Summer Diaries.” In part three, rising senior Caroline Jones and rising junior Ryann Kopacka check in for the final time from the Far East where they spent the summer studying abroad. They will return to Atlanta this weekend and get ready for the fast-approaching fall semester.

Georgia Tech Community and Fans,

It is night and day how Beijing is different from the Beijing when we arrived over a month ago. Olympic preparations have increased as of Sunday the 20th, and Beijing is becoming more beautiful everyday. Olympic banners line the campus, the streets, and the highways. There are potted flowers all along the sidewalks and medians. There are new road signs posted through the city that point toward Olympic attractions, and the signs have English on them!

The new subway lines are FINALLY open!! …well almost. The new line 5 has been open since we arrived in Beijing. It runs north to south, ending at the Temple of Heaven. Line 10 opened on the 20th, which runs east to west, and it’s so convenient to use it. This line goes near the venues, and it is also a much easier way to get to the Silk Market because you can avoid some nasty train transfers .The sad part is that Line 8 is not open yet! Line 8 is the Olympic Line that goes to the Olympic Green, the Olympic Sports Center, the Olympic Village, the Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube. I’m sure it’s done being built, they just haven’t opened it to the public yet. Anyway, the new subways are wonderful. They have brand new trains with new seats and handrails, air conditioning, and plenty of space because not many people are using the new lines yet. The new trains also have TVs that are currently playing instructional videos about each Olympic sport. For example, the gymnastic videos explain what the gymnasts wear, how high the pommel horse is off the ground, how gymnastics is scored, etc. At least, that is what we can gather from the Chinese and animations. It’s neat how the government is teaching the Chinese about the Olympics by playing movies on the subways.

The roads are less crowded too! As of the 20th, Beijing has been regulating the amount of cars on the roads. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, only cars with license plates ending with an odd number can drive on the roads. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, only even-numbered cars can drive on the road. Taxis and buses can drive everyday. The cool thing is that the Chinese people are abiding by this rule! It’s fun to ride down the street and only see odd numbered license plates. I don’t know how the United States would enforce such a rule.

This system has definitely cleared up the roads. It’s not so crazy riding our bikes anymore or crossing intersections because there are not as many cars. The new system also benefits the taxi drivers because it keeps the fake taxis off the roads every other day. There are even lanes on the roads that are designated just for Olympic vehicles, similar to the HOV lanes in Atlanta. I’m not sure what constitutes an “Olympic vehicle”, but the lanes stay empty most of the time, not even the taxis are allowed to use them.

This car regulation system is working so well at loosening up the traffic that we won’t be surprised if the Chinese government tries to continue this rule after the Olympics. It’s had some great results, but there is no way that this kind of solution would work in Atlanta. Compared to Beijing, Atlanta’s infrastructure and underdeveloped (or underutilized?) public transportation system would not be able to get people where they need to be. One day those civil engineers from Tech will figure something out 

There are also officials throughout the city that are teaching the Chinese to be polite. Before Sunday the 20th, on the 11th of every month, Beijing instated “Queueing Day” where the Chinese people would practice courteous behavior on the subways and buses. Since the 20th, there have been guards wearing orange at all of the subway stations and bus stops. They have flags that they wave around too. At the subway station, each guard stands at a door of the train and makes sure the people line up away from the door, instead of standing in a big mob with their noses up against the doors. The guards make sure everyone has room to get off, and then they let the other people board the train. The same process occurs at the bus stops.

There has also been an EXPLOSION of Olympic volunteers. They are everywhere! They were all given the same outfits to wear- a bright blue and white Olympic polo, a gray Olympic hat, a yellow Olympic fanny pack, gray and yellow tennis shoes, and gray Olympic zip-off-at-the-knee pants. These volunteers are stationed throughout the entire city and in all of the subway stations to help tourists find their way. One of the guys in our program asking for directions to the Summer Palace, and he said they were incredibly eager and excited to help him. Their uniforms are so bright and pretty, and they are always so happy. They all seem very proud to be volunteers. One of the local girls in our Logistics class is actually a volunteer at the Water Cube!

As far as pollution goes, there has not been much of a difference. Last week there were four days straight of blue skies, but it’s been all cloudy and gray since then. Unfortunately, the weather this weekend ranked among some of the worst we’ve experienced in Beijing. It was terribly humid and muggy. Hopefully we’ll see one more blue sky before we go home.

Activities this past weekend included attending an INCREDIBLE acrobatics show at the Chaoyang Theater and visiting the Olympic Green!!! We hoped to get as close as possible to the Water Cube, and of course we wanted to go inside and swim in the pool! On our way, we passed lots of guards and lots of fencing. The ENTIRE park and venues are all still blocked off. I guess it makes sense to protect the venues, but it’s hard to understand why the actual park is still closed. On our way to the Cube, we passed by lines and lines of people waiting to pick up their tickets, the International Broadcasting Center (IBC), the Olympic Sports Center Stadium (soccer finals and the Modern Pentathlon), and a military zone that had surface to air missile launchers. Yikes.

When we arrived at the Water Cube, of course there was fencing and guards everywhere. Nonetheless, we entered this big parking lot by the Cube, and that is where we took a lot of our pictures. The Water Cube actually looks blue during the daytime, not just at night when it lights up! After visiting the Cube, we tried to follow the signs and maps to the Olympic Village, but we could not find it. The heat eventually got the best of us, and we took a taxi back to campus.

Right now, we have officially finished all of our class work for the summer! Our study abroad trip is complete! We have all day Thursday and Friday in Beijing, and then we head back to the US on the morning of the 2nd. Our big plan for Friday is visiting our teammate Onur! He has arrived in Beijing with the Turkish Olympic Team. We cannot wait to see him!

God Bless,

Ryann and Caroline

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