Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The world record holder and reigning Olympic gold medalist in the marathon won't seek to retain his title.
Many U.S. athletes are training for the Olympics and will stay thousands of miles away from the site of the games.
That's right, the 2008 Olympics are in Beijing, China in two days, but some U.S. teams are staying in other countries, like South Korea.
The Ethiopian man mentioned at the beginning of this column won't run in the marathon competition he dominates because of an asthma problem that will be made worse by China's air pollution.
U.S. Olympians will be offered masks to wear in token resistance to the lung clogging pollutants. That's why U.S. athletes are training for the games far away from the games, to steer clear of Beijing's polluted skies as much as possible.
All of that alone makes it seem crazy that the Olympic powers that be should have the games in China.
What troubles me even more is that journalists are willingly giving up their rights to report all the sights and sounds in China during the games. Initially, China made overtures that they would drop their communist guard and let reporters report with free access unhindered on the internet.
Ah, but just a week ago or so the overtures became underhanded as China rescinded its promise, blocking some websites.
There was no world outcry and the games continue.
Surprisingly, journalists who decry any obstacle to open government and are all about open access have become apparently mute. Hoping, I guess, that nothing newsworthy will happen in China other than the games.
So in the face of all this, why are the games in China and why, apparently, is no news agency willing to take a stand.
These are not the Olympic games, these are the Madison Avenue games...the official street of these games.
There will be brilliant spectacle, to be sure, with athletes trying their best in stunningly designed stadiums and buildings. China's history and culture, edited by its communist handlers, will be on full display.
You'll watch, though, and I'll probably watch the opening ceremonies...and accompanying commercials.
But don't watch for the usual camaraderie that exists at Olympic games when athletes from around the world live together in a campus at the host city.
Don't watch for any world records in outdoor endurance sports.
And, of course, don't look for much investigative journalism from Beijing outside of the arenas.
That's because in all likelihood they won't be there.