The Olympics: infuriating, heartbreaking, and breathtaking

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.

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