Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Beijing Olympics - Semi Final

Today marks my 3rd trip to Beijing in just 7 days, for those who have little understanding of the geography of the country. Beijing is just 2 hours away by flight, however as with all air travel that is only half of the story – added to this you have the hour or so to get to the airport, the extra hour to check in and get through security and a final hour waiting for your flight, and of course the hour to get to your final destination – in all from office or home to location is takes about 6 hours, multiply this by 6 individual trips and I have spent a day and a half just travelling to and from Beijing this week.

Sky News Interview

Why? Well I wrote about my first visit, which was planed well in advance and was a trip to confirm arrangements for what we had in store towards the end of the games, the second trip was organized last minute to accommodate Sky News and a piece they wanted to do on the London Taxi in Beijing. This was a fly in, do the interview and fly back out again – while this seems ostentatious, it is far cheaper at the moment to fly in and out, than it is to stay in a hotel overnight – even if the constant traveling zaps all of your energy!
The interview was a gentle report, associated with Sky’s coverage of the Olympics, it concentrated on why the London Taxi was so popular in China, and what our plans for production and sales would be. I had worked with the team from Sky several times before at the Nanjing MG plant, so it was great to be reunited with some old faces – although Peter Sharp’s reference to me, as the “Quintessential British Toff” took some getting used to! The best thing for me was to get some video footage of the vehicle outside of the imperial palace and below Mao’s portrait on Tianemen Square – I imagine he would be spinning in his crypt if he knew that one of the greatest symbols of London was circling his resting place.

My third trip this week, was one that should have been given to Tom Cruise – as in ‘Mission Impossible’, I can‘t go into details as it would cause embarrassment to too many people, but needless to say I was dispatched to Beijing on a task that me pet Labrador dog had more chance of succeeding in. Despite this I jumped (actually crawled) onto a plan at 9pm, arrived around 11pm traveled to some god forsaken hotel for a midnight meeting, before leaving for my hotel at 1am – my head hit the pillow at 2am, only for the alarm to ring out at 6am in preparation for another 8am meeting. A day of negotiation and sitting around coffee bars waiting for phone calls culminated in me getting a plane back to Shanghai at 9 pm that evening, with the thought that I had to be back at the airport for 8am the next morning.

Now anyone who thinks this is glamorous or interesting or exciting – obviously doesn’t travel much, if sitting in sitting in crappy Taxis (Not the London Taxi variety of course), queuing in long and unruly ticket counter queues, having to endure virtual strip searches in the intense security that surrounds the Olympic airports – I am not joking, don’t spend your money on pole dancing clubs, or brothels – the girls who frisk you at Beijing airport these days would be accused of sexual assault if the tables were reversed. Trying to explain that the bumps and bulges in your trousers aren’t sticks of dynamite in pigeon Chinese can become rather embarrassing, I am surprised that men of a certain ilk aren’t lining there trousers with pins or paperclips, just to get a more intense probe!
Then you have the hotels, which have stunning entrances, with enormous chandeliers and polished floors, check-in desks as long as Olympic swimming pools all beckoning you to spend a small fortune for the privilege of staring at an absurdly expensive mini bar for half the night, wondering how you will justify the late night bar of chocolate on your expense claim to your finance controller. All for a business meeting that could quite easily be done over the phone, if it wasn’t for everyone’s desire to ‘press the flesh’.
The first 60 or 70 times, its great to visit new cities, countries, hotels etc. but after that they fade into one – hotel rooms are all the same, worse than that, if you have been lucky to stay in some great ones, then everything else just compares badly – regardless of how good they are.Having just read all of that, I have changed my mind – it is great really, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I returned back to Shanghai with a failed mission and the thought that I would have to return back again in just 48 hours, but this time I was determined to have some fun!

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