Why Watch the Games at Home?

Outdoor LED Screens Offer Live Olympic Viewing, Culture And Entertainment

By Published on .

Ray Ally
Ray Ally
For the lucky few who were able to watch it live, the opening ceremony last Friday at the Bird's Nest was a spectacular show. For the rest of us, there were three options. Most locals stayed home to watch the event with their family on TV, while expats and tourists went to one of Beijing's many sports bars showing the event live. The third option was viewing the ceremony on one of the city's new outdoor media screens.

Beijing's city government has set up 26 "Olympic live sites" around the city at various venues including parks, squares and shopping centers. The idea originated from the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a way to open the live experience to families and spectators who could not get tickets to events.

The screens were well-received in Sydney and by what I have seen so far, it will be even more successful in this city, as Beijing has a vibrant outdoor culture. It's common to see friends and families sitting together and chatting in local neighborhood communities, particularly in the city's older alleys, called hutongs. Seeing locals eating, exercising and dancing together in the streets at night are familiar sights during the warmer months.

All of the outdoor sites have a number of large high-definition TV screens that show the games live from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The sites also host exhibitions, ethnic dancing and other types of cultural entertainment, depending on the location.

The Place in Beijing
The Place in Beijing Credit: Ray Ally
I watched the opening ceremonies at The Place shopping center in Beijing's central business district, known as CBD, which has the second-largest overhead LED screen in the world. The site also has a free exhibition installed by Coca-Cola with 102 illuminated -- and impressive -- life-size terracotta warriors.

If you want to experience the real local color and flavor of the city and its people, the outdoor venues are a great place to be. They offer a combination of Beijing culture and Olympic spirit. And when a Chinese athlete wins a gold medal, the crowd goes crazy!

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