Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Asian Games!

The City of Guangzhou in southern China is the host of the 2010 Asian Games. We were fortunate enough to secure some tickets for three diving events -- the Men's and Women's 1M Springboard and the Men's 3M Springboard. There was buzz of excitement as we walked around the village with all the people from around Asia who came to see the Games. They handed out China Flags and Asian Games Flags to anybody who wanted them and we joined the home crowd waving the flags with big smiles. The people there were so friendly and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We got to see Olympic Champions Wu Mingxia and He Chong thrill the host crowd. Our seats were quite good and the "boom camera" would sweep the crowd after each China diver did their dive. Later each evening, we would watch the event on TV and there we were!! Of course, Duraflex supplied the springboards for this pool and Springboards and More supplied the Rough-tex for the diving platforms. This is the same for the Water Cube (Beijing Olympic Pool) and the National Training Center for diving.

Ancient Water City / Water Ballet

Our travels took us to The Ancient Water City of Wh Zhen (also known as "The Oriental Venice"). Here we toured a bed museum; a textile museum; a Chinese Whiskey Distillery that included a taste test -- UGH!!; and then took a boat tour on a water taxi (Chinese gondola). out next adventure took us to a resort town outside of Hunagzhou where Chairman Mao Tse Tung had a lakeside villa and spent much time there. It was here that we saw an incredible Water Ballet called "Impression West Lake." The show was directed by the same man who directed the Opening Ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was incredible. They had built a stage about one inch underneath the surface of this HUGE lake and there were probably 500+ performers in costume and with an amazing light show and sound track where the actors appeared to walk and dance on water. It was absolutely amazing!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flying within China

The Beijing Airport is HUGE and the Terminal 3 was built just for the Olympic Games. They size and scale of everything is incredible. We checked in as a group and headed to security. We did not have to remove our shoes but we did have to remove everything from our pockets (including non-metal objects) and pass through metal detectors and "wands" while our bags passed through x-ray. To get to our plane -- the entire group flying on that plane load onto a bus (standing room only!) and it drives us out onto the runway where it is a mad dash to get on the plane. It is rather strange that all seats are reserved but everyone wants to get on that plane right away. (The picture above was taken as we boarded the plane in Huangzhou to travel to Guangzhou)

The flight was smooth and nice and the service provided by the flight attendants was excellent. There was a movie (in Chinese) on the flight of nearly two hours and there was some mystery meat sandwich that was served that most in our group did not partake. Upon landing in Shanghai, we got our luggage and met our new tour guide "Hyphen" who took us to our waiting bus and took us to the waterfront where we enjoyed an incredible 45 minute cruise up and down the Shanghai Waterfront with its more than 1000 buildings over 100 meters tall all lit up in a colorful array of lights and moving billboards. It was stunning.

The Water Cube and The Bird's Nest!

We drove to the Olympic Village to see The Water Cube (swimming and diving) and The Bird's Nest (opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field events). these iconic buildings are right next to each other and are even more impressive in person. We were able to go inside both of them and we certainly spent more time inside The Water Cube taking many pictures of the diving facility. Jan, Doug and Mark (from Duraflex) and me were hoping we could get on deck to see the diving equipment up close but we were unable to do so. The "powers to be" were not on site this day and the people in charge were not able to grant us permission to get on deck so we simply took pictures and took in the sites and recalled all the thrills we witnessed on TV two summers ago during the 2008 Olympic Games.

The street vendors were everywhere outside the buildings but the massive gift shop inside The Water Cube was a big hit with our group. After leaving the Olympic Village -- it was off to get a quick bite to eat before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Shanghai.

The Temple of Heaven

Sorry for the delay getting blog posts up. Apparently, the Chinese Internet does not allow direct access to blog website as a way to control what may be posted. Anyway -- we will do our best to update through back channels.

We visited the wonderful Temple of Heaven in Beijing. This place is THREE times bigger than The Forbidden City and here is where you can see hundreds o f people doing Tai Chi on the plaza; practicing calligraphy (using water) on the ground and large numbers of people walking, dancing, exercising, playing cards and checkers etc. - just relaxing and having a nice time. The culmination is the beautiful "Temple of the Good Harvest" which I hope to post a picture of as soon as I can.

Friday, November 19, 2010

China Trip -- The Great Wall

The Great Wall should be called the INCREDIBLE WALL. I never dreamed I would ever make it to this place but today I spent two hours here -- walking, climbing, reflecting,taking it all in -- awe-inspiring. I imagined Genghis Khan and the boys coming over the mountain trying to gain access to China and running into, well, this wall. The Great Wall goes for nearly 3500 miles and you simply cannot understand what an undertaking this would have been to build it until you take a cable car up the side of a mountain to get there. Luckily for us, the wall was not too crowded with people. The only "downside" is the gauntlet of vendors through which you must walk to get to and from the cable car -- daunting!

The placard at the entrance says: "Once intended to ward off attacks, today it brings together the people of the world. The Great Wall -- may it continue to act as a symbol of friendship for future generations." Cross one thing off the "bucket list."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Interesting Foods in China

Our group has enjoyed some wonderful meals so far on the trip. From Dim Sum to Moslem "Hot Pot" to a wonderful eight course meal hosted by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (of which Yilla Guan is the chairperson of in San Francisco). We have tried to eat everything with chopsticks and have been very "adventuresome"at table.

See photos above of taken at our Friendship Banquet and our "Hot Pot" dinner (certainly NOT for picky eaters)!!

Blogging NOT EASY in China!

It should be noted that "blogging" while in China is difficult. It appears that the government blocks access to blogs (of any type) for fear of angry political propaganda posts being made. I could not access my blog directly to post these entries or pictures -- rather I have to remotely connect to my PC at the office and then upload that way.

China Tour -- Tiannaman Square

Just outside The Forbidden City is the largest city centre in the world. It is called Tiannaman Square and it is MASSIVE. In the center of the square is the mausoleum that holds the remains of Chairman Mao and at one end is the famous giant poster of the former leader of The People's Republic of China. There are street vendors EVERYWHERE hawking their goods and they do not take "NO" for an answer. It was eerie to be standing in the same place where the famous student rebellion took place nearly 20 years ago. We were told the square could hold at least 1,000,000 people! WOW!

China Tour -- The Forbidden City

WOW and I mean WOW!! Talk about a palace -- the Forbidden City was built in the early 1400's and was occupied by 24 emperors up until circa 1925 when it was opened to the public. Now millions and millions of people tour this area that takes up 720,000 square meters and it surrounded by a 52' wide moat that was dug by hand by some of the 3,000,000 laborers who built this amazing place in about 20+ years. It has incredible palaces, buildings, pathways, etc. that are too numerous to count and they seem to go on forever and ever! The movie "The Last Emperor" was filmed on location here and it would be hard to get the same shot twice because you simply cannot fathom how big this place is until you walk around it for a couple of hours. No pictures can do this place justice.

China Tour -- National Aquatic Training Center

Jet lag got the best of me so I did not sleep well the first night. Breakfast that next morning was an incredible buffet with more food that any person could even dream of eating. There was not much "American style" breakfast food but as they say: "when in Rome....."

After breakfast we headed to the National Aquatic Training Center. This was a special treat for us because it is not open to the public and there are guards at the gated entrance to the complex. After a brief introduction meeting with the facility director, we were taken to the famous dry land training room where a number of the younger Chinese National Team divers were practicing. Unfortunately, this room is considered "State secret" and we were strictly forbidden from taking photos in the dry land room. However, I can tell you that there were 15 (FIFTEEN) Cheeseboards on Short Stands into foam landing pits. These were surrounded by 6 (SIX) large trampolines with overhead spotting rigs and at the far end of the room was some one meter platforms and another diving board that went into a large in ground foam pit. Oh yeah -- one more thing -- there was another identical room just down the hallway. INCREDIBLE!!

We were then taken to the actual diving well where the training takes place. (See the photo above). There were 10 Springboards and a full set of towers. There was a "Bubbler" machine and overhead spotting rigs above a one meter and three meter springboard. The platforms were covered with 2-Ply Black Rough-tex and there were cameras and other recording devices all over the place. It was VERY WARM and humid in the pool area.

After a VERY short visit, we were whisked out of the building and to our waiting motor coach for travel to the Forbidden City and Tiannaman Square. We did not get to see any of the SEVEN Olympic Gold Medallists from China as they were all in Guangzhou for the 2010 Asian Games which we will attend in about a week.

Diving Goodwill Tour of China -- Day 3!

Thirteen plus hours on an airplane is rather difficult. After you have been flying for what feels likes DAYS, the TV monitors tell you that there are only 5.5 hours remaining!! The temperature outside the plane is -65 degrees and you are 40,000 up in the air somewhere above Siberia!

We landed at Beijing International Airport -- Terminal 3 -- which was built just for the 2008 Olympic Games and it was like many things we saw on TV during the Games HUGE, INCREDIBLE and a bit ostentatious. Luckily, there were hardly no other passengers there at the time so we breezed right through security and headed to dinner at a local Dim Sum restaurant. After dinner, it was check-in at the hotel and then straight to bed!!

The picture above shows the Olympic Mascots near the exit of the airport. There were also some Terra Cotta soldiers "guarding" the gate.

CHINA TRIP -- Departure Day!!

Our group met at San Francisco Airport; checked in ; went through security and then headed to the international gate where we waited for our13+ hour flight on a large China Air 747. The picture above shows the group near the check-in gate.

Left to Right: Yilla Guan (our hostess from Allied International Resources); Jan Rude (President of Duraflex International); Kathy and Doug Bowman (Duraflex Factory Superintendent); Joanne and Bill Walker (Past President of USA Diving); Micki King (1972 Olympic Gold Medallist -- Women's 3M Springboard); Steve Voellmecke (Springboards and More); Lindsay, Micki and Mark Spry (Duraflex International Engineer); Tony Huang (VP and GM of Allied International).
On the plane, we were able to read the diary (and see the photos) that Micki King kept when she last visited China in 1973 after winning the Olympic Gold Medal for Springboard Diving in Munich, Germany the year before.

Monday, November 15, 2010

China Trip Day 1 -- San Francisco

Arrived in San Francisco this morning and was greeted at airport by representatives from Allied International Resources (the Duraflex Diving Equipment Dealer for China as well as Springboards and More's Rough-tex Dealer for Asia). Allied International is also our host for the China Diving Tour.

After a nice lunch at a local Chinese Buffet, we toured the warehouse where they store the diving boards, diving stands and Rough-tex in preparation for shipment to Asia. (See attached photo of Tony and Yilla (Allied International); Steve (Springboards and More) and Mike (Geodis Wilson Global Logistics).

Tony and Yilla then took Steve on a "quick" tour of San Francisco including the "Twin Peaks" (San Francisco Overlook); Golden Gate Park; Golden Gate Bridge; Fisherman's Wharf; Palace of the Arts (site of 1915 World Expo) and finally China Town where we enjoyed a great meal at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Here we learned that the more noise you make while eating your bowl of noodle soup -- the more you like it!! SLURP!!!

Now it is off to bed for a good night's sleep in preparation for a long flight to Beijing tomorrow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Springboards and More along with some members of The Duraflex International Corporation; a former Olympic Gold Medalist and a Past President of USA Diving will spend nearly two weeks in China on a diving goodwill tour.

Their travels will take them to Beijing where they will see and tour the 2008 Olympic Venues including the "Water Cube" (pictured above). They will visit and tour the National Aquatic Training Center for Diving and watch some practices. They will also spend some time in Shanghai before heading to Guangzhou where they will get to watch some of the springboard competition at the 2010 Asian Games.

The hope and plan is to make daily blog posts about the trip right here so be sure to check back often!