This will be my first Olympics in "living color," and like most Beijingers, I have seen the city become almost unrecognizable over the last few years. The "Bird's Nest" and "Water Cube," as the new National Stadium and Aquatics Center have been dubbed, have transformed the cityscape along with other landmark buildings.
As a graphic designer, what has been equally fascinating is how the city has been rebranded over the last few weeks, as preparations for the games have gone into overdrive. The Olympic logo, the Fuwa mascots -- the whole look and feel of the games has been extended from the Olympic venues into the city itself.
This Olympic look and feel has transformed a normally drab city center into a vibrant and exciting extension of the games. It has brought the Olympics to the streets of Beijing and, more importantly, to its people, who now feel more included and part of this spectacular event. Streets and flyovers are lined with banners, buildings are decorated with posters and Olympic flags, and huge walls have been covered with Olympic supergraphics.
To reinforce the idea of the 2008 Olympics as a "people's games," billboards recently appeared around the city. These public-service ads are in stark contrast to ads for Olympic sponsors. The latter feature Chinese sports stars such as basketball player Yao Ming, hurdler Liu Xiang and diver Guo Jingjing. The city's Olympic-themed posters feature real people ranging from children to adults to senior citizens, not athletes or celebrities.
And it's working. Beijingers feel like participants in the global event their city is staging, not just bystanders.