Tiananmen Closed on Opening Day


Tiananmen Square, the symbolic center of China, was closed this morning, the opening day of the Olympics. But the closure didn't deter thousands of mostly Chinese tourists from thronging the sidewalks across the streets from the square.

Sporting Chinese flag decals on their cheeks and foreheads, they jostled with each other for the best spots along the white metal railings that stand between the sidewalk and the street for taking photographs with the vast, empty square as their backdrop.The festival atmosphere ended around 11 a.m., though, when a black SUV drove up blaring in Mandarin: Leave the area. Move quickly. Come back at 2 p.m.

People struggle to get onto Tiananmen Square before the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Aug. 8, 2008. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

There was no explanation for why everyone had to leave, though people could later watch a live broadcast on television here of a lunch hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao for foreign dignitaries and guests at the Great Hall of the People, across from Tiananmen's west gate. Police routinely clear the square when there are events at the hall.

No one budged initially. Some said they had been hoping to stake out spots for a fireworks display that would begin hours later during the opening ceremony at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium. But soon more police cars arrived on the scene and police and guards began walking in a line down the sidewalk, herding all the pedestrians to the east. The evacuation was mostly quiet with little shoving, a sign of the expertise the Chinese have with crowd control.
--Jill Drew

August 8, 2008; 6:50 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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Please enjoy the Chinese culture!
Beijing welcomes you!!

Posted by: ceilia | August 8, 2008 1:54 PM

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