NI HAO FROM BEIJING!
CHINA JUST ROCKED! That Opening Ceremony was definitely in my top 10 of all-time highlights in working around sports. The Globe...the paper/scroll...the 2008-strong Qing Dynasty drums at the start...the fireworks...the parade of athletes and Yao at the end leading China with the crowd going wild...the raising of the China and Olympic flags...the USA team taking up almost the entire circumference of the track...the choreography beyond belief...the tears and emotion as usual...but more than anything...the torch lighting. People, you can't believe what it was like to stand there and look straight above you and watch that guy run sideways around the upper ring of the Bird's Nest, all the way around, following the scroll, and then the lighting and the fireworks that filled the Beijing sky. I can't stop thinking about it. THE SUMMER OLYMPICS ARE UNDER WAY!
My story on MLB.com was filed at 3:30 a.m. here, or 3:30 back in NYC. Here are some pics from Beijing. I will start running in the morning. It's usually too late and 100+ heat index by the time I wake up or I was way behind on sleep or whatever. Now it's time tomorow.
Click on the money shot here below, and you can see in the high-rez image the spotlight on the right. The "runner" is in that spotlight, and at that moment he had just lit the torch.
Kobe and the boys...
Here's Roger Federer and the Swiss:
And here comes big Yao with the earthquake survivor. It was like Ali in Atlanta in 1996, except multiply that times one trillion. This guy is China.
FIRST DAY OF THE OLYMPICS
Now it's the day after the Opening Ceremony, and tonight I'm headed over to Wukesong Stadium for the USA baseball team's intrasquad scrimmage. They are champing at the bit waiting for Tuesday's opener against Korea. The next two days they play exhibitions against China. This morning, I woke up at about 11, gradually catching up on sleep, and then I went looking for food. There was this beautiful restaurant across the street from the Jingmin Hotel, where I stay. I went inside and it was time to experiment.
Do you think I have enough soup? The waitress asked if I want "big or small," and I was hungry so I said big, and it is a jumbo vat-o-soup. I ate a few spoonfuls (ugh). Same with the Coke (I asked for "cocalite" which is Diet Coke, and she gave me a humongous regular Coke. I had shezhuan duck with dumplings. I passed on the duck stomach slices and the shark tail and the fish head with seaweed (those were the appealing items).
All done. Yum and shay-shay (thank you). Someone give this soup to the needy.
Here are the Taxi Cards that are a survival weapon for me.
SECOND DAY OF THE OLYMPIAD
I woke up at 5 a.m. local time and looked out my window and saw this:
I know because I took that picture. Then I posted it for my myspace friends. :)
I decided it was time to run. Rainclouds everywhere. Steamy. Just go for it, dude. You have less than three months till the NYC Marathon. Crank it back up. Don't let the travel beat your training. So I stripped down bare naked and I rubbed the hell out of the Body Glide, baby. I threw on the black Adidas shorts, the black Underarmor sleeveless, the recharged Nano, the Breathe-Right Strip, the Balegas and the Brooks and I packed my butt pocket with 2 GUs and 250 yuan (about US$35), grabbed a bottled water, and headed for the front of the hotel and I let er rip with absolutely no idea where I was going.
I turned left. Then when I got to the end of the street, I looked up to make sure I remember what the building looked like, and then I crossed the overpass over the Badaling Expressway, which takes you out to the Great Wall of China. I just started running alongside the Expressway, on the side road with the huge bike lane that so many Chinese bike constantly. I ran. I ran. I ran. I ran. I ran. I kept crossing roads, and I kept checking for landmarks. I remembered what the top of two twin towers looked like, so that they would be my breadcrumbs. I ran, I ran, I ran, I sweated an insane amount. I stopped inside a place that looked like their version of a Dunkin Donuts, hoping to get bottled water to keep hydrating, and no one had a clue what I wanted or was saying, I would just point to my empty bottle, and then finally a woman came out and she got the clue, and she came back out with two bottles filled with water. The food they were all eating was kind of fried pastries, cooked in a wok that I was watching while waiting -- the man would dump tallow fat by the jug in it, that's what they are eating. It was so disgusting. But they live to be very old people. Who is anyone to judge. Maybe dog meat is really good for you and "of the earth", too. Who are you to judge because it's not your morals/fiber of being?
I went back out and resumed running. I ran for a total of two hours. I did not care about mileage today. I am on a tight schedule with the Olympics and I would have to get back and get to the baseball team. First, after 1 1/2 hours of running, I stopped and did something that was a thrill of a lifetime for me.
I watched guys my age playing hoops at a park. They love basketball here thanks to Yao Ming. I was standing there sweating profusely, and one man came over to me and asked if I wanted to play (he didn't really ask, he just gestured). I of course replied that I would love to with all my heart and would consider it one of the coolest things in my life (I didn't really speak, I just gestured). Soon I was playing 5-on-5 with Chinese, none of us speaking the same language, but all of us speaking the universal language of picks and screens, jumpers, crashing the boards, retaining possession after a make, and my team won. I made a few baskets. At first I had a lid on the basket and they were laughing every time it would trickle out, like "When is this American going to score!!!" I taught a couple of them how to align for shooting, how to square up to the basket and point their elbow to the rim when they shoot. After two games, I went around and shook every last person's hand and bowed my head deeply. It was such an honor, and it might be the highlight of my trip after this is all said and done. We will never see each other again, but East met West in that ephemeral moment.
Then after running again almost the entire way lugging full water bottles in both hands (I had to for fear of dehydration), I got back to Jingmin and showered and took a taxi to Wukesong. Saw this from my taxi, and I saw a lot of these while I was running. Wanted to show you.
USA was rained out of its exhibition, so we all sat around in the dugout talking for a long time. It's almost time for their competition. I decided to experiment with the subway system leaving there, and I stopped at Tian 'Anmen Square (how they spell it for English) West and suddenly I was in hallowed grounds. Here are some pics. It's funny because local people would just come up to me and ask if they could take their pic with me (it was the yellow Olympics credential around my neck). Say hi to the Forbidden City, the home of the Imperial Palace, where emperors once ruled forever.
This was a plate of pork balls and some mystery meat or tofu and rice, and it was the most disgusting thing ever. I had trouble finding a place to sit and eat it because it is so crowded. I walked a little bit and then plopped down on the ground with my tray and started forcing this down. Then something happened. A man and woman laughed at me and she took my photo. Then other people walked by and pointed and laughed at me. Suddenly I realized that I was offending Chinese custom by sitting in a walkway of the Forbidden City eating my food there, or else I was just a weird foreigner, but either way I got up and went back over to the food serving stand and kind of hid to recover my head for a minute. I texted my friend Maura to tell her people were laughing at me and she told me to just keep smiling. So I did. I went back out there, and that one woman was still standing there waiting for me to laugh at me, and suddenly I was like this comedy show on wheels for a handful of people. Leave me alone!
Here, they'll never find me if I wear this hat disguise...
Forbidden City is overrun with shilling salespeople in these otherwise historic structures throughout the walled grounds. It was called Forbidden City just to keep out these kind of riffraff.
Found another Monster Cat...made of white marble in the 1400s. His name is Hou. Can you dig it. I knew that you could.
Back on the subway and over to the Olympic Green...
Here is how a lot of people were watching China win gold at the women's synchronized diving:
Coming to a work cafeteria near you soon...I was able to sample the about-to-be-released touch screen Coke machines in the Coca-Cola Media Lounge. Pretty cool.
The MPC (Main Press Center)..."office" for tens of thousands of international media in these games. My main "office" is Wukesong Stadium because I am sport-specific for baseball. Many journalists have all-access passes and go from event to event and write daily columns for their publications. I am all baseball. Hopefully I'll get in an occasional other event. Just to clear up a misconception, don't expect me to be your eyes and ears inside gymnastics, badminton, weightlifting and so on. I'm watching it on CCTV (their version of NBC, only better, because they even have live singing performances)...it's like a continuous Opening Ceremony for 2 weeks.
THIRD DAY OF THE OLYMPIAD
I woke up and ran again! This time I focused on speedwork. I ran the opposite direction of the day before, because I finally got my arms around my geographic surroundings within Beijing. I am waaaaay closer to the Bird's Nest than I thought. I ran there. If you can imagine an American sprinting at 80% through the crowds to get there, past the People's Republic of China police and everyone, weaving through taxis and buses, that was me. Something very cool happened in front of the Bird's Nest. One of the vendors was hawking red China headbands and stickers. I ran past and then circled back and gave him 5 huan (divide by 6.79 for US figure) and he wrapped the headband around my head. It had yellow Mandarin lettering on the front. We each bowed, and people around laughed. People always laugh at me here. I tell you, I could be a superstar on billboards here. Look at the Monster Cat!!!! Hahahahaha...watch him eat tray of food in funny places...watch him run through streets with China headband!
Anyway, I got in a good run, and then off to baseball and guess what...
President Bush visited us. It was the first time I have been just around a casual setting where the USA president was able to relax and everyone was laughing. It was beautiful. He came for the USA vs. China exhibition game at Wukesong Stadium. First he addressed the China team (which we created, teaching them baseball), and then the USA team, and then had his pic taken by me and others behind the batting cage. See MLB.com for my story and my photo gallery. Here was an example:
Then it was a blur and right now I am living in that blur. I was up until 5 a.m. local time in my hotel room writing. Opener is 6 pm local time Wednesday, things are moving fast now, sleep at a premium. I realized late at night that I NEVER ATE THE ENTIRE DAY. Back at Jingmin Hotel, I had some fun. I sat at a table, and you are tended to by about 5 or 6 people. They brought me first a mound of fried rice with fried egg on top (always the fried egg on top). I have to tell you that it was THE BEST RICE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. OMG. I savored every bite. It had carrot shavings, it just had this taste and this smoothness that I can't describe. I honestly fell in love with my rice. I wanted to marry it. I wanted to throw rice on rice's head. I am serious! It was that good.
Then they brought me "chicken sandwiches". It was basically a two slices of white bread with the crust cut off, and thinly spread chicken salad of some kind in the middle. And that was like 80 yuan. Ha. Here is the best part. There were 15 or 20 servants all around a TV screen watching China win gold in a weightlifting event, and they were going back and forth between that and USA vs. China women's hoops. They knew I was watching, and they were laughing at me (YES I KNOW WHAT A CONCEPT SOMEONE HERE LAUGHING AT ME) because Mr. American Man was trying to see past them at the TV and they would move out of the way and motion to others to not block my view because we were all watching it together now. I was rooting for USA, and 15 or 20 others were rooting for China. We were all having fun together. Nice. It doesn't matter what language you speak sometimes. It's the Olympics.
FOURTH DAY OF THE OLYMPIAD
On Day 4 of competition
I also love this sloga
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