I would be remiss if I returned from Beijing and the 2008 Olympics without giving a little recap of the summer's biggest spectacle. As Ren noted, I was blogging throughout the games at gregmescall.blogspot.com. But, since nobody likely has three free days to skim through all my ramblings, here is quick-hitting list of things I remember (while I attempt to recover traveling back in time). August 26, 2008 was officially the longest day of my life, I left China at noon on the 26th and arrived in San Francisco at 8am- on the 26th. Doc Brown would be proud. I managed to hook up George and Lorraine, Save the Clock Tower, and Vote Goldie Wilson for mayor, but I digress.
- The air quality wasn't as bad as everyone said it was - Sure everyone I met caught some type of cold while there including one pal who spent a night in the fever ward at 103 degrees, and some athletes left our plan wearing masks but it was a tad overhyped. There was some hazy days where visibility was bad, but you'll find that in most major cities. From what I'm told this was a major improvement from earlier in 2008 when some days you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Ok I'm exaggerating but it was bad
- The Chinese are friendly but don't smile in photos - They recruited some ungodly amount of volunteers and I ponder the translation of 'volunteer' in Chinese was many of them had military garb on in their ID photos. Most everyone was pretty friendly and eager to try and point you in the right direction even if they had no clue where that was. One odd thing they do not smile in their photos. In front of the Bird's Nest, at the Great Wall, getting a lap dance, nobody smiles. I wonder if this stems from Mao not smiling in the cities most famous photo.
- Great Wall and Tianamen Square are pretty amazing - Keep in mind in the United States most of the structure we encounter are only a couple of hundred years old at best. Then try visiting a place that has been around for centuries. The Great Wall is truly something to see and I advise anyone with the means to check it out. It really does seem to go on for ever. I'm not that big into history but strolling Tianamen Square is special considering what has gone on there.
- China loves their Yao Ming - I caught the tale end of the China-Germany hoops game and there is a rabid love for the Houston Rockets big man. Many of the crowd were dressed in Yao jerseys, either the Rockets one or the China one. They also have taken the fast paced U-S-A chant and coined their own two syllable Chi-NA! They yell this really whenever the mood strikes them
- USA Hoops is Back - Perhaps it was injuries to other teams or just a weak field but the USA Men's Basketball Team looked flat out dominant in their run to the Gold. I witnessed their dismantling of Spain which looked more like an organized slam dunk contest than a basketball game. Sure they picked the Gold Medal Game to have an actual game only nipping Spain by 10 or so but regardless it was the right mix of guys and they got the job done.
- Michael Phelps is pretty good - The Water Cube is an impressive venue and Phelps pretty much owned the place in the week he was swimming. I witnessed him win two Gold Medals in the span of about 45 minutes. Who does that? First he hammered the field in the 200 butterfly, a stroke I believe only exists for its difficulty and then was the first leg on a relay in which he opened up such a lead as long as nobody else in the group suffered from narcolepsy it was in the bag.
- Handball is awesome - I didn't get to see this in person only on television but we are missing out on this one. The United States has a team but we did not qualify for Beijing. Let's get it going for London please. This is kind of like an advanced American Gladiators event and I believe if it becomes big in the USA it could open a door for slamball to enter the Olympics by 2024.
- Chicago Needs 2016 - As it turn's part of one Olympics is trying to get people convinced who should get the next ones. With 2012 already set for London (Good luck following Beijing's opening ceremony) four cities are available for 2016. Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, and Coppin State (Rio de Janiero). Tokyo should be out if nothing else because we were just in Asia for 2008. Rio is out because I'm told from those that have been it shouldn't host an AAU basketball tournament let alone the Olympics. That leaves Madrid and Chicago. It was in Spain in 92 and USA in 96 so both are viable. I just think Chicago has one hell of a setup going on. Check out chicago2016.org for more convincing, it would be pretty special.
- Driving in China is Risky - Let's see if I can try and compare the driving in China. Let's take the first scene of the Transporter, Grand Theft Auto (minus hi-jacks), and Bumper Cars and roll them into one. Nobody follows any rules, green means go, and so does red as long nobody is coming. Signals are optional, stops signs are suggestions, and merging is an afterthought. You just need to experience it, people drive on sidewalks, park on sidewalks, ride the horn constantly and show no common courtesy for each other. Also pedestrians do not have the right of way. FYI New Yorkers, if you get plowed by a cab, that's your bad.