The Olympic Challenge

It's one thing to host the Games. The real test is learning to play by the rules of the civilized world

Feng Li / Getty

Chinese Olympic hurdler and gold medalist Liu Xiang raises the Olympic torch as President Hu Jintao looks on during the welcome ceremony for the Olympic flame.

I still have the "meeting of continents" Tote Bag, the flyer for a "Turkish Blues Night" hosted by Istanbul, the key rings from many cities showing bridges and interlocking circles. I can remember Desmond Tutu bringing his irrepressible charm and authority to the cause of Cape Town, while flocks of bright young things tried to seduce us toward Osaka, Japan, or Paris or the "next great international city," Atlanta. One result of covering six Olympiads for this magazine was that I came to see that the real competition on display at any Olympic Games is not on the track or in...

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