Olympic Fever

Will China be ready for the spotlight, and the scrutiny, that the Games bring?

At the auspicious time of 8:08 p.m. on Aug. 8, precisely one year before the Olympic Games are to open in Beijing, China held a celebration of the coming festivities in Tiananmen Square. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, where Mao Zedong's portrait still hangs, was bathed in red and gold light for the event, which featured intricately choreographed dance routines, multiple pop stars and, of course, fireworks.

The evening was gaudy confirmation of why next summer's Games are often referred to as China's coming-out party. For its rulers, the Olympics are a chance to show that their country is no longer...

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