Once I'd checked into the hotel — a task preceded by a bag x-ray and body-wanding at the hotel entrance, and a 20 minute search for my reservation — I headed over to the Olympic Village's MPC (Main Press Center) to see where I'd be working the next 10 days, get my bearings and say hello to my colleagues. From there I headed by metro to Tiananmen Square, figuring I'd take advantage of the setting sun and one of the purportedly only blue-sky days since the start of the Olympics.
Stepping out of the Tian'anmen East metro station (free subway use for accredited Olympic attendee's, by the way), I walked into a solid wall of people. After a bit of jostling I finally found an official (Police? Crossing Guard? Paramilitary trooper? Who can tell, the uniforms ALL look so military) to tell me what was going on. Everyone had gathered for the Flag Lowering ceremony, at sunset. Tian'anmen Square is, by the way, the largest open urban-square in the world. So if this place is packed, you can only imagine how many people were there. I don't know if it's always like this or if the crowd was due to the Olympics, but WOW there were a lot of people there.
Photographing a flag being lowered down a flag pole from a quarter-mile away didn't make for an interesting photo, and there was no way I'd get to the front to actually see the guards doing the lowering, so I spent my time…
…shooting people watching the ceremony. There were tons of kids, so I'm really guessing that this is an unusual crowd — that this many people are in town just for the Olympics, even from all over China. Of course not all the kids were thrilled to have been dragged there!
I wasn't sure if it was permissable to photograph the guards, but once I saw all the locals shoving cameras in the soldiers' faces, I joined in.
Once the sun went down, the entire place lit up like a Christmas tree. This is the Tian'anmen Gate, the entrance to the Forbidden City.