Editor's Note: Jodi Noffsinger, an American living in Beijing, is filing regular updates on the scene at the Olympics in The Beijing Blonde column on FOXNews.com.
As I entered the Olympic beach volleyball venue at Chaoyang Park, I wondered if I was really in Beijing. For a moment, I thought I had been transported to California. This was just too weird.
American hits were blaring over the speaker and an American guy was the main emcee for the pre-game festivities. Bikini-clad "beach babe" dancers from around the world were strutting and shaking their stuff all over the sand. And if I was a little taken aback by it all, I can only imagine what some of the Chinese around me were thinking.
Sure there's a club scene in Beijing with some of these elements, but this was an official Olympic event with all ages of Chinese in attendance. I read in China's English language newspaper, China Daily, this was certainly the case for Ma Deshan, a 65-year-old retired government worker who attended the game with his wife and was a little surprised by it all.
As a general rule in Chinese culture, modesty guides most social interaction. Not to mention media since all advertising, TV programs and movies must go through China's censorship board. I remembering hearing a report once that even the social networking websites in China censor photos and pull the suggestive or overly sexy ones off the site, i.e. bikini-clad women.
In the beach volleyball venue, even the Chinese cheer squads appeared modest and reserved as they sat rigidly with their inflatable clappers chanting nothing but, "Jia You," (Go!) only when they were prompted by the official cheer captain. Of course, as the night went on, they seemed to loosen up a bit. I even saw them getting into the wave. Perhaps it was the dancers' influence or the wild American, Australian and Brazilian fans in the stands, or just one too many Tsingtao beers.
Many in the world were calling these Olympic Games Beijing's coming out party. I'd say it's more like East meets West. Call it what you want, but never before have so many Chinese come face-to-face with the openness of the West as fans in the stands. And as a result, they're actually encouraged to be just as open and expressive, at least during the games.
This freedom already seems to be leaving an impression on the Chinese and will certainly leave an impact on China's Olympic goers in the long run. As the older Chinese couple was quoted in the China Daily, "This is really new for us. It's noisy, but you see, everybody seems very happy," a sentiment that will surely be echoed in the days to come.