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Lessons from the 2008 Olympics: China vs. china

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Bracing for the coming onslaught to our airwaves of the 2012 Olympics followed, respectively, by the Republican and Democratic national conventions, caused this Examiner to think back to 2008. Then we were subjected to the same audio-video bombardment, except the Dems went before the Reps.

After all that trauma had subsided, we learned to say President Obama. Around that time, this writer who was not then an Examiner, sent the following e-mail to a number of “friends” (real friends—-not the Facebook kind). In retrospect, it seems to still have value so that e-mail is copied below:

Now that the Olympics and prime political silly season are over, I look back on the little bit of the Olympics I did watch. After having the sound on for a while, I discovered that they were much more enjoyable when the tube was on mute. Then came silly season and the second thing I realized is that, relatively speaking, maybe listening to sportscasters isn't so bad.

Dara Torres!! Michael Phelps!! All those divers on the high board who walked to the edge of the board, turned around, then did hand stands and dove launching from their hands! And that underwater video technology!

O.K. So for a while I was into water sports.

China claims it won the Olympics because it had the most gold medals and gold is the only thing that matters, at least to China. The U.S. claims it won because it had the most total medals.

Interestingly neither side, at least that I've heard, acknowledged the traditional way of determining the winner which is not medals but points: 3 for gold, 2 for silver, 1 for bronze.

Under that system, by my quick tally, China won by possibly the closest one-two finish since the modern Olympics began...223 to 220.

The U.S. and the rest of the world should remember China's attitude about gold or nothing...it will follow in the 2010 winter Olympics and more importantly in areas besides sports. We’re taught to be “good sports;” that is “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” China echoes what some football coaches have said for years “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.”

When I was a young boy, I remember asking my mother why her china was so important. She said “It looks good for our guests.” Although that intuitively seemed superficial, who was I at that young age to argue. Then came the episode with the young Chinese girls at the Olympics. One little girl who apparently could sing really well presumably had some defect in her looks. I saw one picture, presumably of her, and to me she looked like a normal cute little girl who had a tooth missing like kids that age often do. However in China that missing tooth was thought by the Chinese government to not look good for China's guests and the rest of the world. So a little girl who seemed to look good but apparently sings worse than I do, lip-synched the song. Thanks to modern electronics, the original girl actually did the singing from an undisclosed location. And the decision to perpetrate this illusion of looking good went to the top of the China's politburo. Now I fully appreciate my mother’s comment and I know why good dishes usually made in England are called china.

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