Let the games begin: journalists have been promised a pampering at the Beijing Olympics

From outside it looks like a modern office block crossed with a Chinese-style pagoda. Inside, a corps of "hard-working" professionals are being offered massages, hairdressing, modern gym facilities and world-class starters and mains. It sounds like a playground for high-flying hedge fund managers, but this complex in Beijing is aimed at a more earthy audience: the global fraternity of sport hacks.

The Beijing Olympic Green Convention Centre, which will make its debut on Friday when press coverage of the Olympics springs off the starting blocks, will be the working base for the more than 20,000 media professionals expected in Beijing. Never one to pass up a PR opportunity, the Chinese authorities have rolled out the red carpet for the Fourth Estate. Reporters will file their copy via Wi-Fi from their laptops, or any one of almost 1,000 computer workstations, and then really get down to business, drinking or hitting the sack in a five-star hotel that adjoins their working area, or indulging in top-of-the-range medical care, banking and shopping.

"This is one of the largest media centres ever built, by some distance," says Peter Morrison of the London-based architecture firm RMJM, which designed the centre. "We worked very hard to understand the scale of the Olympics. The numbers are staggering. Even last week the quantity of people there was absolutely unbelievable. There is a real buzz about the place."

The press workroom is the largest in Olympic history. It has 971 broadband-equipped workstations, 680 with high-speed network connections and an additional 206 for photographers. The floors are reinforced to shoulder the weight of the pre-fabricated broadcasting studios that have been shipped in. Large, transparent walls ensure superlative views of key Olympic landmarks, such as the "bird's nest" stadium, and the building has cutting-edge acoustics to prevent sound leakage. Next year, the whole complex will be converted into a national convention centre.

"From the beginning we looked carefully at the centre's environment," Morrison says. "The Chinese are very sensitive to culture. That was critical. That is why you can see the pagoda shape in the roof."

The architects have promised the hacks "celebrity-style treatment reserved for Hollywood A-listers... a working journalist's paradise where every need and whim is catered for, including masseurs, chefs, fitness trainers and hair stylists".

Those set to use the complex are slightly more cynical. "It is quite spacious and well appointed, but I am not sure luxurious is the right word," says Chris Buckley, a reporter in Reuters' Beijing bureau. "I think it will be less spacious once it is cluttered up with journalists. They have a canteen and that was OK but it wasn't exactly caviar on toast. I think if the food is good the journalists there will be grateful, because they will be stuck in there for so long. It's not like you can step out and go to a restaurant instead. There is so much security around the perimeter."

So is this complex simply a gilded cage, designed to keep the truth of contemporary life in China from prying eyes? On Thursday, Amnesty International attacked Olympic organisers for backing China in its blocking of certain "sensitive" websites, including Amnesty's own, over issues such as the Chinese government's abusive treatment of the Tibetan people; other websites load incredibly slowly, according to reports. The Independent's Beijing correspondent, Clifford Coonan, says that the website of this publication have been blocked when it has not suited the Chinese authorities. "If you Google words such as the Dalai Lama, [the oppressed movement] Falun Gong or even the Chinese-language version of the BBC website, you have problems."

The Chinese authorities are perhaps hoping that foreign journalists will put their inquisitive natures to one side while in Beijing and head off for a good shoulder rub – or just console themselves with a moment's contemplation before the centre's plum blossom tree.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager

£28 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager is neede...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz