Thursday, August 20, 2009

Olympics year-after: Olympic Green, the narrative

"Olympic Green" is a misnomer. On a clear day, you stand on one end and look down the other and find yourself staring into a sea of concrete that has no shore, to say nothing of greenness. There is no trace of green and no hint of all that green conveys, verdure and youth and life and whatnot. Olympic Green, if it had to play the part of metaphor, would symbolize anti-life. It is postmodern, anti-humanist... it takes the vulnerable pulp of humanity and steamrolls it into the ground before paving it over with concrete, layer after gloppy layer of concrete.

Concrete... you are surrounded by concrete on every side, a stretch of concrete as vast and boundless as 18th-century American prairies, a sweeping expanse so gaudy and cool and inaccessible with its concrete-hard exterior that the structures jutting out of its surface into the sky are mere doodads, like imitations of buds grown out of living roots somewhere deep where the blood of the soil still runs warm.

When you're there, the scale of the Olympic Green promenade seems so unmeasurably immense that you instantly begin thinking about the building process, the paving of ground, the ridiculously strenuous bending of earth -- giants hands wielding mallets that break the backs of heretics -- so that we get a dull, uninspired stretch of concrete as parallel to Earth as one gets in our warped universe.

And as your eyes focus on the distant vanishing point -- you're looking south, of course -- the image of the Forbidden City slowly comes into focus, new Beijing meeting old, postmodernity crashing head-on with the immortals, and, a little further south, that other great expanse of concrete, symbolic of so much more than Olympic Green will ever be during our lifetimes: Tiananmen Square.

No comments: