Just a generation ago, the idea that China would host the greatest Olympics ever would have been outlandish. Black bicycles, gray Mao suits, grim faces — it was a closed country, both fearful and feared. But for the past 16 days, the world has witnessed something awesome. A new and beautiful China — smiling, proud, and graceful. Traditional but suddenly modern, and above all a nation now capable and effective.
Could anyone who knew the country back then have imagined it? That around the globe the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube would become as familiar as the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. That scores of Chinese athletes would weep in victory. That thousands of exuberant local fans would pack the basketball venue, many wearing Kobe’s jersey, whooping it up as their “Little Flying Warrior” brought his second-half brilliance to the Games’ last event.
The magnificent sporting performances throughout the Games paid tribute to China’s great staging, keeping the focus on the play and off the politics. The country is still a work in progress but it’s rising fast, powered by pride and purpose, and lifting the rest of Asia with it. Korea’s baseball team, Mongolia’s boxers, Singapore’s ping-pong paddlers — they all reflect the new confidence of the Orient re-made.
The PRC has often appeared in these posts for the wrong reasons. But not today.