13 August 2008

You know what's awesome? The Olympics

There are so many things to talk about with these Olympic Games, one hardly knows where to begin, so I'm going to start off with Michael Phelps' daily diet, because it's amazing. The other day on NBC, they said that Phelps is supposed to eat between 8,000 - 12,000 calories a day. Every day! That's ridiculous! They also said his typical breakfast looks like this:
  • three fried egg sandwiches
  • a five-egg omelet
  • a bowl of grits
  • 3 slices of French toast
  • three chocolate chip pancakes
It's official, I'm going to start swimming.

Ok, so in all seriousness, the real story in this Olympics, besides Phelps of course, is China. As in, look at that awesome Olympic park China built. As in, look at those 15,000 performers that China used in the Opening Ceremonies. As in, holy hell, those road cyclists are racing next to the Great Wall of China. There are disturbing stories as well, like the father-in-law of the American Men's Volleyball Team coach who was stabbed to death while on a tour on the first day of the Games. Or the fact that Joey Cheek's visa was revoked because the Chinese didn't like his work on behalf of refugees in Darfur. Or the fact that the young "ladies" on the Chinese gymnastics team are probably actually middle-school age children.

And now, despite the fact that they are the world's most populous country, China is having trouble filling the seats in their venues. Some less reputable sources seem to think that people are staying away because of China's human rights record and lack of "freedom." The mainstream media is blaming ticket scalpers - some of whom traveled to Beijing from Houston, Texas, of all places - to rip people off on tickets to the events. The real reason may perhaps be a nuanced combination of both situations.

There are so many reasons to fault China's stifling politics. Its record of human rights, the fact that it quells dissent so fiercely, its lack of a free press ... and no one thinks that a government should massacre its own people, as China did in Tiananmen Square less than 20 years ago. But I like to think that with this Olympiad, China is trying to show that they are becoming worthy of sharing the world stage. Many times in history, governments of major world powers have made bad decisions that resulted in unnecessary loss of life (cough cough Iraq cough cough), but this being the Olympics, we have to rightfully put aside our past grievances and move forward. No one is suggesting we forget the protesters at Tiananmen Square, but maybe we can honor them, just a little bit, by showing up and giving our best in the world's most public sporting arena.

And whether you buy this line of reasoning or not, it seems a little irrelevant at this point. What does it matter what we think when China is becoming more prosperous, their people have jobs, and the country is functioning reasonably well under the Communist government. One can scarcely imagine how they might govern a country of 1.3 billion people, because one can scarcely imagine that many people to begin with. America has a hard enough time holding elections in a country of 100 million voters, how would a country of 1 billion voters go to the polls? (Hanging chads, anyone?)

That said, this is a mighty impressive Olympics, and whether you agree with the politics of the host country or not, you can't discount the effort of the athletes who are breaking records daily. And you have to admit, the Opening Ceremonies were pretty bad-ass. If you don't think so, why don't you try to get 2008 dudes to do Tai-Chi in a perfect circle and get back to me?

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