Friday, August 29, 2008

Wrapping Up the Torch

Olympic. The word has come to mean the epitome of greatness. An Olympic feat is a task one step short of superhuman. After all, people are only human.

But the 2008 Olympics came about as close as is humanly possible to the superhuman. From the moment the fiery footsteps started on their path across Beijing, events that would never even have been possible 20 years ago (and still stretch our conception of what is possible today) became reality.

43 World Records and 132 Olympic records were broken at this Olympics. A single person garnered eight gold medals; more than any other in history. (By the way, this same person gave swimming lessons to 30 lucky youngsters last week at the New York YMCA as part of his Visa sponsorship.) And whether or not the pool depth or various other tweaked factors made any impact on the athletes' performance, the fact remains that it was a human who broke each and every record, who swam each stroke, who ran each step, and who launched themselves airborne for every flip.

And speaking of humans, approximately 3 billion humans worldwide watched the 2008 Olympics.

One of those people was Lindsay Y, a senior at Paly. And she was actually there.

So, how bad was the weather? "It was hot for a few days, but I could definitely breathe. It was so much better than Shanghai," said Lindsay.

Tickets were sold by event, but at $30 per ticket for evening track finals, the cost was definitely not the limiting factor. "A lot of the tickets were reserved for Chinese companies to hand out to their employees," Lindsay said.

An international rumor was going around back when the Beijing venue was announced that there'd been an American who offered several thousand dollars to any hotel who could guarantee him a room for the Olympics. As the story goes, the hotels told him they could not guarantee him a room. Of course, many international guests were able to secure accommodation for those so very important 3 weeks in August. "There were definitely more foreigners in Beijing than normal," Lindsay said.

And of course, these Olympics did not go down without some contention. Liu Xiang, the famed Chinese hurdler, pulled out of the 110 meter hurdles with a severe injury to his foot after one false start. Clearly in a lot of pain as he took his mark for the start of the race, China's track champion started off the block only to be called back because of a false start. And that's when he made the decision to sit out. "I personally was really surprised because I didn't hear about his injury being that serious," said Lindsay. "I think about 60% of Chinese felt that it was not a legitimate injury. He was under a lot of pressure, though. He's really big in China - he was in so many ads."

The international stage was anything but calm as the fireworks exploded over the Birds' Nest, though. George W. Bush was seen chatting amiably in his seat next to Vladimir Putin as Russian tanks rolled into the former Soviet country of Georgia, and China endured criticism about their violations of Tibetans' human rights all throughout the Games.

However, this Olympics, China, the most populous nation in the world, showed how much can be accomplished with people power. This is a lesson Barack Obama and John McCain must understand as they ready themselves for the homestretch of a campaign that went on longer than any other in history. This is a lesson the Chinese government must also take in if they are to continue to grow economically and socially in world society. And this is a lesson we all must internalize and remember every time we think, "What I do doesn't matter. Someone else will do it."

But in truth, every chorus member, every background dancer, every person who moved a box up and down and made cherry blossoms bloom on the Great Wall of China, and every drummer counts towards the whole production and every person who participated makes the performance that much more spectacular.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Biden His Time

Complement or supplement?

That was the fundamental decision our two aspiring presidents had to make when selecting the top contender for Dick Cheney's soon-to-be-vacant position.

Is it better to fill in gaps in your resume or reinforce what you've already got? Obama, at least, has made his choice - at least according to the newspapers. Even though news of Obama's running mate is splashed all over online news sources, apparently he hasn't even made the formal announcement yet. CNN was the first to spill the news, and their source was a press leak, not a rousing speech by Barack himself. (By the way, today the Wall Street Journal released a headline news story naming Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as the running mate for the Obama; and retracted it hours later. They'd published information straight from the computer of some enterprising hoaxer.)

In naming Senator Joe Biden from Delaware as his right-hand man, it's clear Obama is looking to even out his credentials.

Here's the quick version:

Pros for Joe Biden: Well known in Washington. (Helps with experience issue.) Expert on foreign policy. (Helps there too.) Not too risky. (He's not going to make or break the election by himself.)

Cons for Joe Biden: Well known in Washington. (Undercuts Obama's message of change; Biden is a 6-term senator, which translates into 36 years as a Washington insider.) Expert on foreign policy. (Might be seen as better suited to the top job than Obama, given his knowledge of international affairs.) Not too risky. (He's not going to do much either way for polls.)

Conclusion: OK, Obama's going the safe route. Now who's his red elephant counterpart going to pick?

And speaking of John McCain, I half expected him to announce his running mate literally two minutes after Obama in order to dull the buzz surrounding the selected Democratic would-be VP.

And there are some radical choices out there for McCain VP's, including a woman (!!) from Alaska (!!).

But of course, we all know how McCain has been eyeing those 8 million votes Ms. Hillary Clinton could swing his way.

So hey! You never know.