China Play

Xinhua / Landov

DRUMROLL FOR GLORY: A Games charged with spectacle and drama

I was standing in Tiananmen Square at the exact moment in 2001 when Beijing won the right to host the Summer Olympics. At 10:11 p.m. on a muggy July night, China's capital transformed. As indulgent police looked on, revelers hung from traffic lights and clambered up lampposts. Tens of thousands of Chinese sang along to patriotic songs being broadcast from creaky loudspeakers that, in an earlier era, had been used to threaten democracy protestors. At one point, a drunken man with his undershirt pulled up to air his belly weaved up to me, beer bottle in hand. "Hey, foreigner,"...

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