Beijing Olympics: in the Olympic TGV

So there would be life outside the Olympic bubble. To see this, you have to leave the autarchy of the mountains and take the train. China is proud of it, of this high-speed machine, with a slender nose similar to the Japanese Shinkansen.

→ CHRONICLE. Beijing Olympics: the silence of the snow

This line was inaugurated just before the Olympic Games, in January. It connects the capital to the two other Olympic cities: Zhangjiakou and Yanqing. Games participants can take it for free, by booking in advance via an application.

Through the mountains

On an empty dock, a hostess is waiting for us with construction goggles over her eyes. Inside, a wooded 1980s decor. Rows of three and two seats. Part of the train is closed: we move in certain compartments only. In theory, there may be non-Games passengers in the other cars, but these were empty that day.

The 8:10 a.m. to Beijing noiselessly crosses arid steppes, freshly dusted with white snow from the weekend, and tinged with the yellow of the rising sun. Outside it is cold, very cold. The icy breeze bounces against the large windows. We pierce the mountains through long tunnels. At 350 km/h, the top speed.

desert landscapes

It takes fifty minutes to reach the capital from Zhangjiakou, compared to almost four hours by bus one way. The landscapes parade: the mountains, the hills, the plains with the large blocks of buildings under construction alongside the wind turbines. Then a frozen lake. And always this bluish atmosphere of cold dryness.

→ CHRONICLE. Beijing Olympics: the first flakes of Zhangjiakou

Everything seems, finally, to have been deserted. Small hamlets with houses with brick roofs are asleep under the snow. Nothing suggests that more than 20 million people live nearby. It is only at the entrance to the capital that one begins to notice a certain tremor. Cars, inhabited buildings. A life outside the bubble.


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