Shanghai would be breathtaking if you had any breath


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SHANGHAI -- You want to talk about a happening place ....

Sunday’s Shanghai Daily reported that 98% of downtown — and you can’t believe how big downtown is — is now covered by a state-of-the-art 3G mobile phone network so people on the street can stream TV coverage of Friday’s opening ceremonies in Beijing.

Meanwhile, China Mobile’s local branch is renting handsets to tourists for 10 yuan — $1.46 — a day.


With an estimated 20 million inhabitants, this city is more the size of a U.S. county. At 2,400 square miles, imagine something 60% the size of Los Angeles County (4,000 square miles). But instead of downtown, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Ventura Blvd., and all the other cities and residential areas with houses, yards and malls, there are high-rises.

Not only are so many of the downtown buildings new, they’re spectacular. Architects here are seemingly uninterested in building something utilitarian and rectangular with lines that just go straight up and down.

On its way to Sunday’s exhibition game against Russia, the U.S. men’s basketball team passed the soaring curves of Shanghai Stadium, which will host some preliminary Olympic soccer games. It’s a little surprising to learn it holds 80,000 people because it looks big enough to hold 125,000.

With Coach Mike Krzyzewski giving his team Monday off before its final exhibition here against Australia, I rode up the Orient Pearl TV tower, one of the tallest in the world (No. 3 or 4, depending on which list, with the CN Tower in Toronto No. 1) right across the Yangtze River from the Bank of China Building which Ethan Hunts jumps off in ‘Mission: Impossible III.’

The view is breathtaking even if you can see so little of it through the haze. The word ‘breathtaking’ is ironic because that’s downside of all this growth, breathing. By local standards, Los Angeles is like Fargo, N.D.

-- Mark Heisler