Saturday, February 22, 2014

These Beijing Bicyclists Were Totally Distracted By The Athens Olympics

It's a Saturday afternoon Beijing in August 2004. The weather is partly cloudy and the air temperature is 84 degrees. It's a little bit humid, if you want to know the truth.

It's a day like any other, except that the Athens Summer Olympics have just begun, and Beijing is abuzz with excitement, because the city is hosting the 2008 Olympic games. Everywhere, there's a sense of yeah, the Athens games are nice, but the Bejing games are going to be the best ever.

I spent an hour with a camera and tripod outside the entrance to the Forbidden City, shooting close-ups of bicyclists going by with a 300mm zoom lens. Frankly, many of the bicyclists looked distracted, like they wanted to just camp out in front of a TV and watch the Olympics, instead on bicycling on a muggy day.

Here are some bicyclists who seemed preoccupied by the Olympic games, and perhaps overcome with anticipation of Beijing getting its turn to host them. Look at their faces closely -- you can really feel their distraction.

The guy on the left just realized the 1500 meter qualifier is on, and he totally forgot about it. He is angry, but mostly at himself. The guy on the right ( the one who looks like he wants to stab someone) is not planning on watching any of the games, however. More than anything, he just wants a beer.

The guy with the sunglasses is just trying to get through the day -- he had a rough night last night drinking whiskey with his buddies. The woman in the middle just went shopping and is like, 'You know what? I need a nap.' The guy on the far right is psyched about watching some track and field events, but his ear is itchy, so he's scratching it.

This woman is checking the time to make sure she'll be able to get home in time for the gymnastics floor routine. That's her favorite part of the Olympics. Her t-shirt is from Baleno, a Hong Kong brand that's sold throughout Asia.

The guy on the right yawns as he passes by, in this shot that faces the north end of Tiananmen Square. He has been pedaling for about an hour, and frankly, he's looking forward to watching some of the swimming events on TV later.

This guy just bought some stuff from a department store but just realized he forgot to get something important. In the split second he's reaching into the bag, he's not paying attention to what's in front of him. Nothing bad happens, this time. His favorite Olympic sport is the javelin throw. He tried it once and almost impaled his next door neighbor.

This older man used to be a big-time weightlifter in his day. He loves the grit and determination of the Olympic dead-lifters especially. He's expecting big things from the Beijing team in Athens. But he's worried about the Bulgarians.

This woman and her daughter go careening across the bicycle lane in search of the nearest TV. They just realized the women's volleyball semifinal is on. They thought it was later. The time change is a real doozy for these games -- Athens is 6 hours earlier than Beijing. The guy behind them in the sunglasses likes archery, and the other guy doesn't care about the Olympics.

This is a classic "Did I set the VCR to record the water polo finals" kind of look. You can just tell.

This young guy is like, I can't wait for the Athens games to end so the countdown to Beijing 2008 can begin. He hates waiting for things and just wishes life had a fast-forward button so 2008 could just get here already.

The Chinese badminton team just got soundly defeated by the ridiculously talented Indonesians. All of these bicyclists just watched the match, so everyone's pretty bummed. The woman with the sun visor pulled down over her face just can't even right now.