A visit to the Great Wall of China

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As we have ever since the winter games in Lillehammer in 1994, KSL has a full Olympic crew covering the games in Beijing. In between, we've covered Summer games in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens and winter games in Nagano, Salt Lake and Torino.

Before the Beijing games start, our KSL crew took a little time to see some of the sights of China. We went to the Great Wall our very first day. It was probably what we were most excited for, and it was spectacular.

The Great Wall of China is more than 2,000 years old; it took hundreds of thousands of workers put each stone in place. The wall was constructed to keep out wandering nomads and enemies, but it served more as a highway for locals to get across mountainous terrain.

Today, it attracts tourists who want to see for themselves the impressiveness of the Great Wall of China. We ran into Charlene from Atlanta who said, "To have seen this in pics, to hear, and to be here is what makes it amazing."

We spent our first day in Beijing at a section of the wall called Mutianyu. It's considered a less popular spot, but you're never alone. The weather was hot, extremely humid and so overcast with smog and low clouds, you could barely see how long the wall stretched.

The remains of the wall in that spot date back to the Ming Dynasty. "This was built so long ago, it's an awesome structure," Charlene said.

Even with hike, the heat and the unsteady footing, people still wanted to walk along the Great Wall of China. We ran into people from the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.

It was the first time to the Great Wall for Vanessa from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She said, "I'm overwhelmed. Heart is pounding, and it's hot." It was a day she will never forget. "And he [her fiancé] just proposed to me at the 18th tower. Ahhh, I don't remember what I said. I just said, I want to marry you!"

Millions of people visit the wall every year, and with the Olympics in Beijing, even more this year. And everyone we talked to walked away with a lasting impression.

There is one myth about the wall I want to address, you cannot see it from space. That myth started back in the 30s, and it's simply not true. A lot of Chinese history books have had to be edited to make that clear.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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