BEIJING -- The Chinese wanted to make sure the opening ceremonies went off without a hitch. And, boy, its pre-ceremony protection was so thorough it cost me a 90-minute walk back to my hotel.
After having a lunch with a friend, I hopped into a cab about three and a half hours before the opening ceremonies for a journey back to my hotel, located on the Olympic Grounds.
When I got into the cab to show the driver where I needed to go, she knew that she could not get me to the hotel. However, I had the hotel worker tell her to get me as close as she could.
So I took the ride with the driver and she let me off at an exit on the interstate. But before that, I saw Chinese guardsmen at every exit, at every overpass, at every bus stop and even standing post underneath the overpasses. They were out in force.
So I started my journey thinking this could be a 20-minute stroll in the humid conditions.
I saw droves of people getting off buses to get into line for the opening ceremonies. I was just looking for a media entrance. The walk was at 30 minutes when I ran into two Dutch journalists, who were trying to accomplish the same thing I was.
So we went to one entrance and were denied. They told us to go to Gate 3. The people there told us to go to Gate 4. Then Gate 4 said to go to Gate 8. Then the woman at Gate 8 said to walk through the Museum of Science, which was a block away.
When we got to the museum, it was closed. So we walked past that and finally, back at Gate 3, we got clearance. So as we were getting out bags through security (another long process), we ran into none other than tennis great Roger Federer, who was getting his car checked before he was set to lead the Swiss team at the ceremonies.
So after we got through that ordeal, we had a long, winding walk through a nicely constructed park with music in the air. We saw a number of companies with stores selling their products and hosting exhibitions.
Finally, after a long 90-minute walk, we made it to our destination. Soaked in sweat, we parted knowing we shared a common bond at the Olympics, themed One World One Dream.
(Did I mentioned that I lost my blackberry in a cab earlier in the day? That's another story in itsself).