An Olympics to get excited about

At times, it seems almost indecent to be excited about the Beijing Olympics. Every conversation ends with an asterisk.

The reasons are plain. The issues of human rights and Tibet demand a thorough discussion. But for the purposes of this article, let us take one enormous leap. Let us acknowledge that the Olympics are here and nothing can be done about it.

Now, as a lover of sport, let me fill the glass half full.

Four years ago, Athens cleared out for the Olympic Games. Athenians were tired of the hassle. So Michael Phelps vied with empty seats for top billing as the biggest story during the first week of the Olympics. The turnout for some tennis matches resembled scenes from “I am Legend,” minus Will Smith and the apocalyptic hell hounds.

Cue tumbleweed blowing across the screen.

This was the great downfall of Turin. In the end, the Olympics just weren’t that big a deal for the Italians. Unlike Salt Lake or even Athens, Turin felt it had little to prove to the world, and the Olympics paled in comparison to soccer and Formula One.

But ask anyone in Beijing where they will be in August, and they can’t conceive of being anywhere else. The venues will be full, the excitement palpable.

Here, the Olympics have become entwined with the country’s very image of itself. The organizers have spared no expense. The Olympic Green is a menagerie of some of the most inventive sports architecture in the world. It is like stepping into what we thought the 21st century would be, wondering where the flying cars are.

For a moment, look through the eyes of the athletes, who have worked for four years for this moment. Who had no authority to influence the choice of host city. Imagine full stands crackling with anticipation, venues better than any they have ever before seen, and the promise of competing against the best athletes in the world.

I am excited about the Beijing Olympics.

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