The Washington Times - August 3, 2008, 11:39PM

BEIJING (Aug. 4) It took 17 hours, starting with a taxi pick-up at 10 a.m. Saturday ADT (Ashburn Daylight Time) and ended with a shuttle bus drop-off at Sir Scribbles quarters in some kind of district in Beijing late Sunday afternoon ODT (Olympic Daylight Time).

The flight itself, a non-stop adventure from Dulles, was nearly 13 hours but Scrib made perhaps the best decision of his life when he upgraded to business class for the trek. The flight track had us heading straight north and then over Alaska, the Arctic Ocean and Siberia. The Beijing airport is immaculate and very user-friendly. The baggage claim carousel is like those at Dulles only twice as big. Customs took literally 90 seconds and the walk into the main terminal is the same for Scrib as it will be for Michael Phelps basically a red carpet or on-lookers and photographers.

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Other random thoughts as I get ready to listen to ESPN 980 online and the Redskins-Colts game (not):

* Stop lights arent so much a law here as a suggestion. The shuttle bus drivers, of course, are following the laws but often have to hit the breaks midway through an intersection because cars are still getting in their way.

* Scrib’s quarters arent Spartan but they’re not like his beloved Courtyards or Fairfield Inns, either. The bed is hard (that’s fine), the air conditioner works and the chair is somewhat comfortable. The TV has only one English channel, BBC News, and one funny quirk is that your room key also serves as your power. Open the door, slide in the key and you have lights. The AC requires a separate key that can be kept on at all times.

* The currency here is termed RMB. A bottle of water at the Press Center 3 RMB (about 40 cents). A cheeseburger at McDonald’s 7 RMB. But the Olympic folks make up the difference with the venue-wide wireless package 3500 RMB (about $400, I think) for the entire event.

* When Scrib checked in at the MPC, I was given a prize for being the 2,008 media member to check in. The present was a giant knot plus some kind of bead prize.

* Finally, the questions everybody wants answered: 1. The air quality doesn’t seem that bad; it’s just humid, a la D.C. in August, and 2. The Chinese, so far, are very polite. Most of the volunteers are in the 20s and have a semi-knowledgeable grasp of English.

Here’s is the view from the hotel room balcony:

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