For a large group of us, today is all about visiting the Olympic Center to check out the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, and the surrounding park. Given Beijing's relentlessly humid days, many of us aim to swim in the Cube, imagining ourselves doing laps with Michael Phelps. A few of us endure the queues and regulations (including swim caps!) to splash around for a couple hours. Is it worth the hassle? Maybe, maybe not. But that water sure feels good on a hot day.
After nightfall we share dinner before marveling at the park's magnificent light show. We can't walk more than a few feet without receiving repeated entreaties to buy kites and LED slingshots (toys that shoot up like rockets and spin down to earth on delicate wings). We haggle a while but eventually give in, buying nearly a dozen toys between us. The hours melt away as we laugh and play among the crowds, departing just in time to squeeze into late-evening metros heading home.