Dreams fulfilled, or kept alive at Beijing Olympics

BEIJING – Featuring the theme of “One World, One Dream,” the ongoing Beijing Olympic Games have offered a platform for dream seekers around the world, where they can turn their long-held dreams into reality, or at least keep them alive.

By Zhou Yan and Zhou Xiaozheng
Xinhua News

PHOTO: Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines competes in the women’s 58kg Group A snatch weightlifting competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Yves Herman (CHINA)

Having witnessed a century-old dream of hosting the world come true with the spectacular opening of the Beijing Games on Aug. 8, the 1.3 billion Chinese are thrilled at the dreamlike performance of their Olympians, who have grabbed 26 golds to ensure the country’s lead on the medal table seven days into the competition.

But just as the Games organizers had promised in the global relay of the Beijing Olympic torch, these Games are an occasion to “light the passion” and “share the dream,” and the dream belongs not only to China, but the whole world.

Since the very first day of the Games, the world has been watching in awe an unstoppable Michael Phelps take one gold after another in the pool of the National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube, with a six-for-six medal haul underscored with six fresh world records.

“The old records seemed as fragile as glass bottles in the Water Cube,” exclaimed a Chinese TV sports commentator at the 23-year-old American swimmer’s miraculous performance.

Driven by his dream for glory and backed by his near perfect physique, Phelps has never stopped training for the Olympics since his debut in Sydney 2000 as the youngest athlete in the U.S. team. He only placed fifth in the 200-meter butterfly then.

Despite a six-gold sweep in Athens 2004, Phelps never let up in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, and media reports said he often got up for training in the early hours of the day, to better adapt himself to the competition schedule in the Water Cube, which puts all the finals in the morning to accommodate the American TV viewers.

Through extensive media coverage, Phelps’s dream of a record eight-gold sweep in the Beijing pool is now known to many Chinese, and most of them believe he deserves the glory.

“I wasn’t that keen on swimming, but now I switch to the sports channel every morning at 10 a.m. to see Phelps swim,” said Beijing retiree Song Xiurong, 62. “I hope he can fulfill his dream here.”

Besides Phelps, other swimmers, if they are lucky enough to be competing in an event that the ambitious American is not in, have also found the Water Cube a magic stage for them to materialize their dreams.

Some 20 swimming world records have been refreshed, some of them more than once, over the past week in the Water Cube, triggering a heated discussion about the pool’s “unique design” that might have helped boost the athletes’ performance.

It should just be a happy coincidence, but Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi did make the following remarks at a press conference on the sidelines of the Chinese parliament session in March:” If they (foreign athletes) cannot break world records in other places, maybe they can come to Beijing, where they will have a better luck.”

The undying dreams for the Olympic glory are certainly not confined to the magic Water Cube, as India earned its first individual gold medal in the Beijing Shoot Range, and Mongolia saw its first Olympic champion rise on the mat in the Judo Hall.

Nor are the dreams a privilege for the winners of the gold, as some people have lit up their dreams with mere presence at the Games.

Massoud Azizi finished last in men’s 100-meter sprint in 11.45 seconds on Friday. He was satisfied with his result, but also envious of other runners who have been able to train on an all-weather synthetic track.

“It is difficult since we don’t even have a track in Afghanistan,” said the 23-year-old Afghan runner, who had trained for seven years — always on the concrete track.

“If we have a track like this, I can also win an Olympic medal…It’s my dream to compete with Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay,” he said after being disqualified on the red, elastic lap in the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, in north Beijing.

And the dreams ignited by the Olympic flame in Beijing have gone far beyond the Games and the competing Olympians, to be shared by everyone that wants to celebrate friendship, unity and a better future.

Taipei taxi driver Zhang Pingsheng was one of them. At the age of 59, he traveled more than 3,000 kilometers to Beijing for the Games — by bike.

“I think this is the best way to celebrate,” said Zhang, wearing a bright yellow helmet and blue-and-white sports wear. He flew to Hong Kong in mid May and took a ship to Shenzhen, where he bought the bike, a digital camera and a map, and started the 76-day odyssey to Beijing.

“My parents were born in the mainland and went to Taiwan in 1949. It was their lifetime dream to come back to their ancestral home,” said Zhang.

Zhang arrived in Beijing on Aug. 8, the Games’ opening day, with no tickets to any competitions. But a local non-governmental organization offered help, getting him a ticket for women’s hockey.

Zhang’s voice was hoarse and the fluorescent torch he was given to cheer for the players was broken at the end of the game, in which the Chinese team beat their South African opponents 3-0.

For Lin Hao, a nine-year-old boy from Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province, the epicenter of the devastating May 12 earthquake, to meet NBA star Yao Ming at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was beyond his wildest dreams.

When Lin walked at Yao’s side to lead the Chinese Olympic delegation into the Bird’s Nest last Friday night, at least one million peers of his back in the quake-ravaged province were watching in surprise, admiration and even a little bit jealousy.

“We often play basketball together, and Yao has always been our idol,” said Yang Yuerui, Lin’s schoolmate at the Yingxiu Primary School. “I can’t believe he has become the lucky one.”

According to Yang, Lin just fulfilled one of the many dreams shared by the surviving students, and some of the other dreams, such as becoming a pilot to ship parents and schoolmates out when earthquake strikes, and inventing a machine to precisely forecast a tremor, were certainly more important than meeting Yao Ming. With Xinhua correspondents Lou Chen, Yan Hao and Liu Chang

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