BEIJING -- The Beijing auto show is renowned for being a full-contact sport of sorts. Walking the aisles, nay, even trying to enter the venue, can be a survival-of-the-fittest tussle.
The noise is deafening, the crowds downright oppressive and the logistics of getting to the site a Sisyphean nightmare.
So it was with near disbelief that I had to walk only 20 minutes past the standing-still kilometers-long jumble of buses and taxis to reach the main gate on press day. And then the line moved us swiftly inside. It was practically whimsical.
Indeed, the chaotic Beijing show has improved markedly over the years. But it’s still plenty rough around the edges.
There is the occasional guttural growl of a visitor beside you hawking a loogie before depositing it on the hallway floor.
There are the overflowing toilets. And the noise, noise, noise.
But this year, the overcrowding may have reached crisis levels.
Scores of families, some toting toddlers or infants, still infiltrate what is supposed to be the media preview day. They are no doubt aided by the hordes of scalpers hovering outside doing brisk business and gate-crashing.
Security was also tight, befitting Beijing’s hard-line communist persona. It wouldn’t be the capital city’s auto show without the camouflaged fatigue-wearing pseudo-commando security troops marching lockstep through the crowds. Some meeting rooms came complete with flak-jacketed, helmet-clad, baton-wielding guards.
Yet, even that overkill was not always enough. Apparently.
Hyundai triggered a minor show meltdown when word leaked that its celebrity guest presenter would be Kim Soo-hyun, a South Korean heartthrob who is currently all the rage in China.
I have never seen a show venue as jam-packed as Hall W2. Thousands of fans -- chief among them young women who somehow finagled their way into press day -- literally shut it down.
I was unfortunate enough to have an interview at the hall’s far end. But the guards in camo jumpsuits wouldn’t let me in.
Turns out, security asked Kim -- a baby-faced actor/model/singer -- to delay his appearance two hours until the mob subsided.
“Security was afraid that an accident may occur due to the large size of the crowd,” a Hyundai spokeswoman said. “The press conference took place after security was increased and it all ended well.”
Just what the show needed. More crowds and more security.