On Track in Beijing
_Tim Weaver, former meet director of the Kansas Relays, is a manager for USA Track and Field and is in Beijing for the Olympics. This is his third and final blog entry from the Olympics._BEIJING - As I look in the rearview mirror and see this past month, attempt to place it all in some brand of immediate perspective, I come back time and time again to the broad concept of change. Beijing is changing. By the minute.The concrete and steel grows every hour of every day. One thousand new cars on the streets of Beijing every day of the year (most of them Audi A6s, for whatever reason). The people here are changing too, becoming more and more exposed to outside worlds. These games must have been a crash course in global culture.Sports are changing. Many more countries are accessing the sorts of training facilities and ideas and resources that were once exclusive property of the athletic superpowers. Professionalism and amateurism are at a crossroads. In one national an air-pistol shooter may be a professional with state sponsorship. In another, she is a police officer only shooting on weekends.Basketball has a hybrid of amateurs and pros that varies by nation. There were the ancient Olympics. We've seen the modern Games. I wonder if we're entering a post-modern Olympic movement. London will have to put its own unique stamp on the 2012 games - I doubt anyone will be able to outspend or outstaff China's efforts here.Technology is changing. I have written this blog on my blackberry from the Bird's Nest, in taxis, on a bench in the natatorium, and finally at the airport headed home. I can "call" home for $0.02 a minute with a webcam from my laptop. I can access the network at my office remotely and print to the printer back in Kansas.Thomas Freedman wrote several years ago that now the world is indeed flat. I'm learning that it is shrinking and very inexpensive too. I wonder what will be possible four years from now in London at the next summer Games. What new tools and toys will change how we communicate, compete, entertain, and exist? The biggest changes seem to be the ones you can't see coming. I've changed too. Watching so many win and lose will do that. The Olympics are simultaneously important and unimportant. So I've gained some perspective there. You win gold; you lose silver. Now I see that success is the junction point of natural talent, effort, and good fortune. And you can only control one of those variables.My pride in the United States has grown beyond the limits I had previously thought existed. We do a lot of good and right things, and most of the world wants to do as we do in many, many ways. The "U-S-A, U-S-A" chant in the tunnel before we took the field for closing ceremonies was deafening. I've heard about family feuds in Mongolia villages and the perks provided to Cuban champions. The open American opportunity is a rare thing.Time visiting temples makes me plan to spend more time in quiet places. Eating duck taught me that good stuff is often hidden beyond your comfort zones (and is strange parts of the animal body). Being away from "home" has helped me appreciate the little things I miss there. I know it will take time to put everything Olympic into perspective, but I know I'm leaving Beijing with far more than I brought here.That's all my weary mind can produce for now. Catch me down on Mass street this fall or walking across campus and I'll tell you more. Until then, I'm going to click my heels, think of Kansas, and hope to sleep most of the 17 hours between here and home.
_Tim Weaver, former meet director of the Kansas Relays, is a manager for USA Track and Field and is in Beijing for the Olympics. Occasionally, he'll send blog entries chronicling his time there._Even with only half the local vehicles allowed on the road on any given day, Beijing's streets are packed. The laws of traffic are merely the laws of physics here. It's as much math as anything. Bus>truck>car>bike>person. It's more than a little unnerving to look around while being driven anywhere. But the taxis are cheap ($3-$4 for a 20-minute drive), and there's no tipping. So you can get an exciting ride for a low, low price. The people here are crazy for the Games. The logo and five rings are everywhere. I've had several locals tell me, in almost the exact same syntax and emphatic tone, that these games are the most important thing to ever happen in China. This is also evidenced in their fervor for lapel pins. These things are the currency of the Games - like cigarettes in prison. Give someone a USA lapel pin, and you've made a friend for life. Rather than pins, I'm collecting info on some new sports. Water polo, judo, beach volleyball, fencing (all typically non-Kansas sports) are some of my new favorites. The U.S. delegation is so big, there now is always someone competing at some venue, and we all try to keep up on the other people here with us. I'm picking up a few souvenirs for the folks back home. We went to the Silk Market, where everything is for sale and cheap if one doesn't mind bartering for 10 minutes then walking away three times. Sales techniques there are interesting as well -- usually heaping praise (in English) on the United States once the employees can spot an American. Once swarmed, my method of escape is to, with a sad face, say "Wa bou whey schwa imgwen. Wa schuh Chungwarren." (I can't speak English. I'm Chinese). This confuses half of them, amuses the others and I can slip by and move on to the next booth or two. Big laughs here in China as we move on to the track & field competition that starts today.
_Tim Weaver, former meet director of the Kansas Relays, is a manager for USA Track and Field and is in Beijing for the Olympics. Occasionally, he'll send blog entries chronicling his time there._Beijing is big. Big buildings. Big traffic. Big noise. Big airport (terminal 3 is the largest indoor structure in the world, we are often told). Beijing imitates a big machine that hums both day and night. Here echoes a constant din of people moving and working and playing and mostly bicycling within inches of each other - cars, people, buses and buildings. Speaking of, there are clearly two ways to secure the safety of your bike in Beijing. The first is to procure a sort of lock that hooks the frame and rear wheel together so the thing can't roll. The other is to possess a bike so abundantly wretched that no one else would steal it. I've met several locals eagerly wishing to practice their English in the friendliest of manners. It's quite nice, in direct contrast to the gratuitous public spitting. Like most of Asia, the toilets here are (literally) a porcelain hole in the ground.But there are more similarities than differences, I suppose. Cell phones and iPods are everywhere. As are U.S.-brand shirts, baseball caps, flip flops and packs of giggly teenagers. Some qualities remain universal.As far as the reason we're all here, things are looking good. For one, the U.S. team will be quite sharp in the opening-ceremony garb. Can't say what the uniform will look like, but it's very classy above all else. We have a city-within-a-city here where the U.S. team trains. Some of the best food I've ever had, great training facilities, medical setups and many places to just relax. George Bush came through today and toured our area, drawing more than a little media attention. The Bird's Nest stadium is an amazing structure. I went to see it last night and found tens of thousands of locals out near it seeking the highest point from which to take a photo of the thing lit up at night. Word around town is that the Opening Ceremonies has cost $300 million and will feature over 10,000 performers. Most think that the Chinese 110 hurdler Liu Xiang, the 2004 champion, will light the stadium flame. We'll know for sure by this time tomorrow.Regardless, expect something big.