Eye of the Storm In the Eye of China
BEIJING - Hundreds of years ago, the Emperor of China would sit on his throne in his office high atop all of his minions in the Imperial Palace in the heart of Beijing. His office would be the highest building in the city, and to this day, no building can be built higher than the Emperor's office. That's just one of the many historic tidbits that AFL China's representatives learned about at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City on Thursday afternoon in Beijing. I was lucky enough to have chance to experience all of these sights with the players on Thursday, and I caught up with the two members of the Tampa Bay Storm on the roster of East All-Stars, Randy Hippeard and Rodney Beamon.
"There's so much history here. It's crazy," said Hippeard, who went 8-of-13 for 132 yards and a game-high four touchdowns last weekend in Honolulu off of the bench.
Before heading to the Forbidden City where the East and West All-Stars would have a chance to see one of the most stunning architectural structures in the entire world, they were treated by going to Tiananmen Square, the third largest city square in the entire world.
Immediately there, the locals in China took to the players as if they were already global superstars. The locals were enamored with anything from the bald head that Hippeard sports to the dreadlocks belonging to Terrance Smith.
Tiananmen Square dates all the way back to the 1400s, and historically in China's history, there have been a number of tremendously notable events, some of which were both positive and negative. Monuments have been built for notable Chinese people in history, and there are commemorations abound.
Amongst the different sights at Tiananmen Square includes the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People.
There was also a famous protest at Tiananmen Square in 1989, where over a million Chinese civilians attempted to rise up against the Communist rule in the country. No official death toll was ever announced, but the Chinese military open fired into the group of civilians, which effectively ended the demonstration.
"This is the experience of our lives," stated Hippeard.
The Imperial Palace, now known as the Forbidden City, took a whopping 14 years to complete, and it originally sat on nearly eight million square feet of land. Yellow roofs and red walls surround this entire complex, and if the Emperor was to visit all of his rooms in his palace, he would need not just days, weeks, or months, but years to visit them all. In fact, there were 980 rooms in the Imperial Palace during the reigns of the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty.
Before even getting to the Great Wall of China on Friday, many of the players, just like Beamon were already hooked on Beijing and the idea of playing not just this game on Sunday in China, but perhaps in the actual AFL China league, which is scheduled to start up next fall.
"Absolutely," said Beamon when I asked him if he would ever consider playing football on a full-time basis in China. "They'll show that they can take well to the football on Sunday, and I'd love to come back."
To see more pictures of the AFL China experience both in Honolulu and in Beijing, Visit our Facebook Page.
Kickoff on Sunday afternoon is set for 2:00 p.m. CST (1:00 a.m. EST) for the second All-Star Game. The game has reportedly sold out, and hundreds of Chinese dignitaries expect to be in attendance.