Last night I attended my first Olympics-related party.
The Italian contingent has set up the 'Casa Italiana Coni' in an exhibition center in the Haidian district of Beijing. Last night they had a party to welcome the Italian athletes and fans to the Beijing Games. To get there we took the new 10 subway line to the last stop then spent half an hour trying to get a taxi. When we arrived at the venue we had to show our passports to prove our identities and allow security to check our names against the guest list. Then we had to go through a security check - our bags went through an x-ray machine and we had to pass through metal detectors, then be patted down by female security guards.
The party was scheduled to start at 10pm, my friends and I arrived at 10:30pm but the room didn't feel crowded until well after 11pm. The main room of the party had sofas and chairs all around, a variety of Italian wines flowing freely, coffee drinks, and a gelato stand. A live singer and guitarist performed on stage until midnight, then were replaced by a DJ.
At one point we walked around the exhibition center and saw an exhibit of Italian Olympic-related art. There were also booths set up with information about different Italian companies, mostly sports related. There was even a Ferrari on the exhibition floor.
There were a couple hundred people at the party, including volunteers in blue shirts with "Italy" written across them and a rocketship theme. No one we saw appeared to be an athlete. Then again, most athletes in Beijing right now are probably focusing on getting into tip top shape for the upcoming events.
I'm going out of town for a couple of days, starting tomorrow. It will be nice to get away from the Olympic craziness for a little while. I'll be back before the end of the week though, in time for the opening ceremony parties.