When the Chinese don’t have the time or money to visit a foreign country, they bring the foreign country to China. And they do it their way: at the Beijing World Park, for example, you can see Niagara Falls as it should have been (roaring into the Grand Canyon), learn that Southwark is a semi-autonomous region in South London, and see the default Chinese view of Africa – penis gourds and poverty, mostly.
Now the folks up in Beijing Olympic Park offer you ‘Water Cube to London 2012’, a painstaking recreation of a real London street, where tourists can watch the Games and, perforce, tour. They’ve got everything right – pigeons, immigrants drinking supermarket beer outside a pub, a cheery Cockney hawker selling jellied Es and whiz, a local Community Support Officer standing blissfully unaware nearby…
OK, we’re fucking with you. London St. exists, it’s just nothing like described. It’s more a collection of British street furniture, including a mocked-up Piccadilly Circus Tube station, classic red post and telephone boxes (made of wood and missing the obligatory business cards), and, rather shockingly, a misspelled sign: ‘Regengt Street’ in ‘W.1’ [sic]. The centerpiece is London’s well-known Routemaster double-decker bus – perhaps vindicating Mayor Boris Johnson’s controversial decision to bring these costly charabancs back.
There’s also decking and seating; one booth purported to offer happy hour ales and a carvery for eight quid, piquing our interest in an English-style pub lunch; alas, it proved to be a ruse – a missed opportunity there. This video captures the vibe nicely, as well as the reaction of yer average tourist. One describes London St. as “beautiful” while another praises the “rubbish bin and bus stop seats” as “classic London scenes” (see also, 1:35: ‘man taking photo of foreign bus schedule’).
There’s also a small exhibition area with a gallery of Olympics posters from the last century. Here it’s easy to see how:
- 1936’s Berlin Nazi pics (boo!) preceded 1948’s the-good-guys-won London Games;
- The 1924 Jeux Olympiques was a bold experiment in homoeroticism you strangely couldn’t get away with today;
- The 1968 Mexican ‘Summer of Love’ poster was famously put together during a four-week tequila and mescaline binge;
- The poster for the 1984 LA Olympics seems to have been received so poorly as to forswear all subsequent designers from anything other than featureless crap, culminating in the notorious 2012 ‘Maggie Simpson gives head’ logo (or, if you’re an Iranian hardliner – and who isn’t these days? – simply ‘Zion’).
Head to London St. to watch the Opening Ceremony on Saturday 28 July – you know, the one at 2:30 am Beijing time.