Out of excitement, or maybe it was anxiety, I almost forgot what happened early Tuesday as we were leaving for Beijing on the Air China flight from New Delhi.
Everything looked spic and span on arrival. Clean roads, finely trimmed hedges, it was majestic.
But that was after nine hours of ordeal (pre-flight and in-flight).
It started when we got out of the bus that ferried us to the plane at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. We were supposed to board at 2.45am and fly out 30 minutes later. Somehow the clock stopped at 2.30am and for almost two hours it never ticked.
Each individual’s hand baggage was put through the scanner again at the stairs leading to the aircraft. India’s badminton coach Gopi Chand, his wards Anup Sridhar and Saina Nehwal, too were not spared. It was only after someone mentioned they were athletes that an exception was made.
As we were waiting, news tickled in of a terror attack in west China. Hence the need for security was understood, albeit somewhat resentfully. “If they are doing this here, what can we expect in Beijing,” quipped a passenger.
As the plane taxied, we were told no liquor would be served on board. The reason? Well, security.
So concerned were the Air China officials that they even aborted attempts to get breakfast for passengers from Delhi.
At daybreak, food arrived from the cold storage, literally. We were served biscuits, a cold packaged egg and a bowl of packaged fruits. Rough take-off indeed!
The landing though was smooth.
One world, one dream - each of Beijing's newly-laid bricks and fragments of historic ruins seems to yelling at you. City corners and hoardings at vantage points are splashed with 'Welcome to Beijing Games 2008, one world, one dream' written in yellow on red or simply on blue canvas.
First impression of a city ready to tackle any eventuality came on touching down. Walking through glazed tiles and filing out of the airport was an experience in itself and it showed how meticulously the Chinese have planned our movements.
No hold ups at customs and with our media accreditation cards around our necks, we exited the airport effortlessly. I had heard complaints of strict security regimen at previous Games. But maybe the Chinese have worked things out differently. Maybe, instead of strict security inside the country, they preferred doing that before you entered the Land of the Dragon.