LJWorld.com weblogs On Track in Beijing

Beijing is Change


_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.


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