Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Wait for the Beijing Olympics

I cannot remember any recent Summer Olympic games for which I have been waiting with as much anticipation as this year's edition in Beijing which will kickoff with the opening ceremony on 8/8/08 at 8:08pm Beijing time. The combination of Beijing as the venue with its political overtones of a rising, still partly closed and environmentally vulnerable China mixed with the compelling narrative around some exceptional athletes in the traditional Olympic powerhouse events of swimming and track and field is adding to the excitement.

In Track & Field, there are three matchups that I am particularly looking forward to watching. The 100m competition between the American Tyson Gay and the two phenomenal Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt, will be a race to watch; perhaps one of the strongest 100m line ups ever to race at the Olympics. The 200m women's race should also be a great rematch between the American Allyson Felix who won the silver in Athens and Veronica Campbell Brown, the Jamaican who won the gold.

And then there is the 110m hurdles! 110m hurdles this year will likely be the most anticipated event pitting the Chinese phenomenon and Athens gold medal winner Liu Xiang against the awesome Cuban, Dayron Robles, who recently broke Liu's 110m hurdle world record. Robles has the potential to single-handedly to dash the hopes of 1.3 billion people who will be cheering for Liu with all their hearts. The Liu Xiang phenomenon in China is indeed amazing and he stands at the center of China's hopes for this Olympics. The New York Times has a special "Play Magazine" out this Sunday which has some very interesting stories on Olympic athletes. There is a piece on Liu titled "The State Requests That Citizen Liu Win Gold" that provides a window into the special place of Liu Xiang in China's government built sports machine.

In swimming, the eyes of the world will be focused on Michael Phelps. Will he manage to get the eight Olympic golds this year and pass Mark Spitz who since 1972 has held that record when he won seven golds in Munich? The same issue of Play Magazine mentioned above has a story called "Out There" which deconstructs Phelps swimming technique in trying to explain his magic. Our family is certainly rooting for Phelps, particularly my four year old who only a few weeks ago matter of factly informed his swim camp director that he is going to be Michael Phelps.

Happy Watching!!!

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