Beijing is just about the biggest thing to happen to the Olympics since the Persians invaded Marathon in 490 BC.
At long last, the curtain will rise in China – inviting the world to join in an athletic fortnight that's doubling as the country's coming-out party.
Already, the storylines are savory: boycotts and protests, reemerging rivalries of East and West, drug cheats, records in slick swimmers' skinsuits designed by NASA, and a host nation determined to make a statement.
They are sure to become only more intriguing in days to come.
Through our stories and blogs, we hope to give you a compelling and unvarnished look at the world of the Olympics and Beijing’s astonishing effort to make them perfect.
In covering three Olympic Games from 2002 to 2006, I have begun to see this cultural phenomenon from the inside – removed from the edits, tape delays, and sweeping string accompaniments of NBC. The Olympics can be infuriating, heartbreaking, and breathtaking, often within the space of a single minute.
But they are always interesting. We hope you will think so, too.