Monday, Aug. 25, 2008
Today was our last day of work from Beijing for CBS News. We closed out our Olympic coverage with both a live interview and a piece by Jeff. I booked Peter Hudnut and Coach Terry Schroeder of the men's water polo team, which won a surprising silver medal yesterday. Jeff Glor filed a piece wrapping up the Games, and offered his thoughts on the experience in his live intro and tag. As he and producer Michael Teng came down from the balcony where we do our live shots, I blasted one of the more famous Olympic theme songs (the one composed by John Williams for the 1984 Games) from my laptop, we raised our cans of Tsingtao, and began to clean up the workspace that has been our home for these last three weeks.
It was a bittersweet moment for us. We had a great time seeing a new part of the world. We got to work with lots of new and interesting people. We watched some of the greatest athletes in the world compete. But we're also longing to be back in our home country, sleep in our own beds, and get back to normal life. For me, however, this Olympic journey only started a few months ago when I was asked by The Early Show to go to Beijing to cover the Games. I can't help but think about what today might feel like for the Chinese people, who had been preparing to host the Olympics for seven years. And what about the athletes? Many of them had been working towards these last two weeks their entire lives. Whether they are medal-winners or not, I can't stop thinking about what they are feeling today. Do they go through a post-Olympic depression?
The good news is that the Olympics will never cease. As we saw from last night's Closing Ceremony, the torch is being passed (literally) to London. And whether they're ready for it or not, 2012 is right around the corner.
While I was finding that Olympic song (which, I learned, happens to be called "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" and not to be confused with Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream" written in 1936) I came across some amazing videos on YouTube that I suggest you check out. Watch Williams conduct the debut of the song at the Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles in 1984. Check out the "elaborate" routine by the "tall flag girls" on the field. No flying people. No neon lights. No fireworks. Pretty bare bones. From there I watched more Olympic videos from 1980's. Some were ridiculous (Dancing bears in Moscow, 1980. The outfits on the American delegation, 1984). Others were inspirational (Miracle on ice, Lake Placid, 1980. Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10's on the vault, 1984). They serve as a reminder that while the fanfare, the fashions, and the athletic feats are always being improved upon, the spirit of the Olympics should always remain the same.
And as for me, I'll be going back to New York with incredible memories and lots more experience under my belt: booking high profile guests; working with amazing CBS crews; conducting interviews; producing live shots; working on a remote; assembling pieces with an editor; and yes - even blogging.
A quick note of thanks to everyone in New York who helped us to get on the air (and the web!) every day. Thanks to Jeff and Michael for being so hard-working and easy-going at the same time. To the CBS staffers who came to Beijing from London, Rome and Los Angeles - it was fantastic working with all of you. And I have to give much praise to our Asia bureau chief Jake and the team of fixers and interns who together managed not only the enormous logistics of making all of this happen - but also provided us with food, beverage, transportation, translation, and everything else we needed.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading! Xie Xie! Till next time!
It's been an enlightening three weeks:
I watched a sublime opening ceremony.
I watched a nation full of people fiercely proud of their chance to host the Games.
I watched Beijingers inside the Bird's Nest cheer for athletes from any and every country.
I watched them roar when Chinese athletes, in particular, were named.
I watched thousands of volunteers, many of them young, display unending energy and dedication.
I watched a massive and effective neighborhood watch program protect the streets.
I watched the Chinese take a truly unbelievable number of pictures of themselves with Olympic venues in the background.
I watched many locals extremely eager to practice their English, and I realize, when I go back home, nobody's going to be practicing Mandarin.
I watched a city full of people who put more emphasis on being serious than being funny.
I watched an ever-increasing sense of nationalism, spurred by economic and athletic success.
I watched a rising power assert itself by winning 51 gold medals.
I watched different countries and different organizations display medal counts in different ways.
I watched all kinds of sports that rarely make primetime, such as archery and fencing and judo, and I wish this stuff was on every night.
I watched most events on China Central Television, which I'm glad has nine different national channels.
I watched the Internet so I could witness even more contests, and I can't want until broadband connections are consistently reliable.
I watched CNN International get blacked out when it ran something Chinese authorities found disagreeable.
I watched iTunes notify me it was unavailable in China (Apple was selling songs that advocated for a free Tibet).
I watched U.S. Embassy warnings that I should have "no reasonable expectation of privacy," even in my hotel room, and I wonder how many people were watching me.
I watched Chinese officials say one little girl's image wasn't "flawless" enough to appear in person at the opening ceremony.
I watched a girl who looked younger than 16 win a gold medal.
I watched some people spit, but not as many as I was expecting.
I watched locals nudge and push and bump without giving it a second thought, because in China, people generally don't stand in line.
I watched a general disregard of rules on the road.
I watched less protesting than most were predicting.
I watched how bad the Beijing air really was when I flew in.
I watched the skies improve dramatically after only a few days, and mostly stay that way.
I watched the beautiful mountains that surround Beijing, which are visible on the clearest of days.
I watched the open square of Tiananmen and the buildings surrounding it and was awed by its size and history.
I watched my hand direct a stick full of fried centipedes into my mouth.
I watched and tried plenty of other dishes I'll likely never touch again.
I watched the cooks here make omelets with chopsticks.
I watched workers serve me a Big Mac, corn, and sweet taro pie at 6 a.m.
I watched a bill for a sumptuous six-person lunch total only 20 U.S. dollars.
I watched Jason Lezak complete one of the two greatest sporting comebacks I've ever seen (Bills over Oilers, 1993, is the other).
I watched Usain Bolt run faster than any person ever and win without even trying that hard.
I watched the U.S. boxing team put up its worst Olympic performance in history, and I wonder if it's because all the young fighters are choosing MMA instead.
I watched the Redeem Team justify its name.
I watched a volleyball family deal with unspeakable sadness.
I watched a .
I watched a volleyball team triumph in the most bittersweet and beautiful moment of these games.
I watched my hand move across my chest and settle on my heart as our national anthem played, and I felt incredibly proud and lucky to be an American.
I watched the clock, and I can't wait for London in 2012.
Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008
They did it. Both of them. One team that was supposed to. Another that wasn't.
One team was trying to overcome a recent underachieving past. The other was trying to overcome recent unspeakable tragedy.
Both were looking for a first place finish in Beijing, and both got it.
The U.S. men's basketball team beat Spain in a gold medal match only a couple hours after the U.S. men's volleyball team beat Brazil in its finale.
For four years, the basketball team has been trying to "redeem" itself. They not only played below their ability in Athens, they acted well below the Olympic standard. There were moments of petulance and immaturity. U.S. officials revamped the way the national team operates, and it paid off.
For two weeks, the volleyball team has been trying to keep its focus. They not only were shocked by the attack that killed coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law, they had to play their first three matches here without McCutcheon, who was tending to his family. There was no way they could change what happened, so they controlled what they could, on the court, and they won, the first volleyball gold for a U.S. men's indoor team since 1988. An amazing moment.
Don't get me wrong. I know losing a game (as the U.S. did three times in Athens) is a whole lot different from losing a life. When this is over, basketball players can concentrate fully on celebrating. . He'll return home and grieve fully with a family that's been forever changed.
But both of these teams were carrying extra baggage these last two weeks, and both carried it with class and determination. They deserved the wins they got, and they set an example all of us can follow.
What a final day for USA.