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The post-Olympic void

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BEIJING -- The OIympic Green returned to being a vast, desolate space Monday.

All the security fencing remained in place, limiting access to accredited people -- media clearing out of the Main Press Center, Olympic organizing committee staff and volunteers.

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There weren’t many of those people out and about as I walked around many of the venues, giving myself a final look.

In fact, there was so little human or vehicle noise that an odd call and antiphon resonated across great distances: the hum of cicadas, answered by the beep-beep-beep signals for the visually impaired at traffic lights.

While the volunteers remained as resolutely helpful and friendly as they had been during the Olympics, there was backsliding in other areas.

One worker openly defied the anti-spitting campaign Beijing had run for a year, and cigarette butts lay on the ground.

The place briefly will come back to life when the Paralympic Games begin their 12-day run on Sept. 6, and the exterior surface of the Water Cube still glowed with its changing color scheme Monday night.

But the Bird’s Nest no longer shone red as it had when its interior walls were bathed in light. The cauldron holding the Olympic flame was snuffed out Sunday, and the building was a looming, grayish hulk.

It was as if the energy that filled it for two ceremonies and nine days of track and field rather than electricity had been the light source.

That energy is gone forever.

-- Philip Hersh


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