Sunday, January 24, 2010

China 2008 Olympic Exhibit, Kowloon, Hong Kong

As I mentioned last week, we were in Vancouver over Christmas and looking around town, while there were banners and some new outdoor artwork that had been placed in time for the Olympics (more next week), I did not see a public tribute to the sports that was as charming as what I saw in Hong Kong in April 2008. Had we visited Whistler Mountain, site of the 2010 Olympic alpine events, maybe I would have something more to talk about. But there wasn’t much to see in downtown Vancouver.

Hong Kong, April 16, 2008:
On my first business trip to China, I stayed an extra day to see Hong Kong with our friend, Julie.

Central Hong Kong from the top of Victoria Peak on an unusually clear day, and then from the opposite direction at night. On the right, which is a view from a restaurant window, I can’t tell if the lights at the top are from Victoria Peak or my wine glass reflected in the window.

The things that made me feel most comfortable about being in Hong Kong was the widespread use of English, the common heritage of the Commonwealth, and the familiar names, Victoria and Stanley. You can see Victoria Harbour in both photos. Victoria is also the name of British Columbia’s capitol. The Stanley region of Hong Kong was named after the same Lord Stanley for whom Stanley Park in Vancouver and the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup was named after.

My mother was born in England and she and her family emigrated to Vancouver in the 1950s. As children, we often went to my grandparent’s house for family dinners where my brother and I would drink milk from glass beer mugs etched with “Harp Lager.” When I went to London for the first time, many years ago, seeing billboards advertising Harp and other brand names, like, “Yardley’s” made London remind me of visiting my grandparents. With all of its reminders of England, Hong Kong had a similar effect on me.

Many of you live in different countries or regions from where you grew up. What do you find in your present home that reminds of you of your childhood?

Another thing about Hong Kong, if you love Cantonese food, you’ve come to the right place. If you want a break from that and feel like having Italian food for dinner instead, the Italian restaurants offer the same or better than what you’d find on at Calzone’s on Columbus Avenue In San Francisco or Arriva! on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

Back to our story. After having dinner in Kowloon with, Julie, in a restaurant overlooking central Hong Kong, from where I took the night-time photo above, we walked around Kowloon and found this display. These are the Fuwa, the mascots of the 2008 Olympic Games. Most of the events were being held in Beijing, but the equestrian events were happening in Hong Kong.

Here’s what I found in Wikipedia about the Fuwa:

“The Fuwa (Chinese: 福娃; pinyin: Fúwá; literally "good-luck dolls", also known as "Friendlies"), are the mascots of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The designs were created by Han Meilin, a famous Chinese artist... There are five fuwa: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini. Together, the names form the sentence "北京欢迎你", or "Beijing huanying ni," which means "Beijing welcomes you".”

The characters were really cute and the display was outstanding with the different Fuwa characters illustrating each of the summer events.

Some were quite animated... and all were inspirational.

Who says, I’m not in fighting “shape?”

Thank you, Julie, for taking these photos of me with the Fuwa, and for showing me an excellent afternoon and evening in Hong Kong.

Postscript: as for Shanghai, had it not been for a Nike ad near Nanking Boulevard, I wouldn’t have seen any mention of the Olympics in Shanghai that year either. And, I had a really good look around the Bund and the Pearl Tower on my second visit in November. But, there was plenty about the upcoming 2010 World’s Fair. Now, is it my place to suggest that there’s more than a little rivalry going on between Beijing and Shanghai?

Copyright © 2010 David G. Kelly

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