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article imagePhoto Essay: Beijing's Olympic Park and circus Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Apr 14, 2014 in World
Beijing - I remember watching the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics from my California TV. When I visited the site this year, I was surprised to find a thriving tourist hub and live circus.
What happens to past Olympic locations? Do they sit empty, silent memorials to former glory days when a host city brought in visitors from all over the world to cheer for their competing athletes? Or do they change into a thriving tourist center with live circus performances, strolls along a river and into stadiums, and a chance to buy a souvenir? The Chinese are industrious, and they decided to make the best of their Beijing Olympic Park for years after the last gold medals were bestowed in 2008. Walk with me there.
On the third day of my whirlwind tour of Beijing during the Chinese New Year, I was exhausted but happy. We had walked miles through Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Prince Gong Mansion, and Yuan Ming Yuan Gardens. We had climbed the Great Wall together, descended into the mysterious Ming Tombs, and toured the lovely Summer Palace by a forested, hill-surrounded lake. We had climbed a thousand steps to the temple on top of the Summer Palace the same day that our relentless tour guide took us to Olympic Park.
Wind blew dust up that afternoon as we wandered by a river, under lookout towers and the torch statue, past a stadium, and next to a wall that bore the names of Olympic Games winners. We ended the afternoon by sitting inside a tented circus and watching skilled acrobats perform their amazing acts. Flexible girls stretched their bodies into odd positions. One little girl danced on her toes atop a man's shoulder. Boys threw themselves through hoops or climbed atop rotating circles. Dancing girls balanced spinning plates. Brave motorcycle riders sped together inside a giant metal ball.
Olympic Park gave me another insight into modern China: hard-working, determined, and always connected to the past.
We walked beside lookout towers as we approached Olympic Park
We walked beside lookout towers as we approached Olympic Park
Entrance to Olympic Park  showing the  Bird s Nest  stadium and Olympic Torch statue
Entrance to Olympic Park, showing the "Bird's Nest" stadium and Olympic Torch statue
The rings at Beijing s Olympic Park  site of the 2008 summer games
The rings at Beijing's Olympic Park, site of the 2008 summer games
Olympic Park is big and takes time to walk around
Olympic Park is big and takes time to walk around
A 7-star hotel on one corner of Olympic Park
A 7-star hotel on one corner of Olympic Park
Dancing girls and acrobats in the circus at Olympic Park
Dancing girls and acrobats in the circus at Olympic Park
Flexible girls could stretch their bodies into odd shapes
Flexible girls could stretch their bodies into odd shapes
This little girl danced on her toes atop a man
This little girl danced on her toes atop a man
These dancers balanced spinning plates atop metal rods
These dancers balanced spinning plates atop metal rods
Acrobats threw themselves through rings
Acrobats threw themselves through rings
Brave acrobats balanced inside high moving rings without safety nets
Brave acrobats balanced inside high moving rings without safety nets
Skillful motorcycle riders zoomed together inside a giant metal ball
Skillful motorcycle riders zoomed together inside a giant metal ball
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