Olympic Games have impact on USD By: Randy Dockendorf
Yankton Press & Dakotan University of South Dakota track coach Lucky Huber traveled to Beijing last week, working with USD alumnus Derek Miles as he sought Olympic gold in the pole vault. Miles finished fourth in last Fridayâ�?�?s finals, just missing an Olympic medal for the second consecutive time. But before he left earlier this week for Beijing, Huber said he expected the impact of Chinaâ�?�?s hosting the Olympics would be felt far beyond the closing ceremonies. â�?�?It seems the Chinese really want to put their best foot forward to the other countries and have people understand that China is not a Third World country,â�? Huber said. â�?�?They have a lot of the same things we do. The Chinese are very technologically gifted and want to deal with those (foreign) businesses.â�? Itâ�?�?s a sentiment also shared by USD professors XT Wang and Dongming Mei and USD student Joe Cooch, who have all traveled to China during the past year. Wang and Mei, who were born and raised in China, have seen dramatic changes during their return to the nation. Mei visited China during summer 2007 and said he wants to return next summer. Wang recently returned from Beijing, where he has taught and researched every summer at Peking University and has seen the transformation since the Chinese capital was awarded the Olympics in 2000. Cooch, a Spearfish native, studied and toured along the eastern coast of China, including time spent in Beijing during construction of the Olympic facilities. He has visited the homes of Chinese families, seeing the Olympics and everyday life through their eyes. The USD foursome shared their insights on the Olympics that go far beyond the medals. LUCKY HUBER Huber left Monday, Aug. 18 on his total 22-hour journey from Sioux Falls to Beijing, including the 14-hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo. Miles had left earlier this month in time for the Opening Ceremony, and Huber remained in touch five or six times a day. Huber was filled with anticipation at rejoining Miles, who had previously competed in Japan but not in China. For Huber, the tripâ�?�?s main mission remained focused on Milesâ�?�? shot for an Olympic medal but also offered a chance to explore the intriguing nation. Based on Milesâ�?�? text messages, Huber said he expected a very warm welcome from the Chinese people. â�?�?Derek said they are very open to Americans and very welcoming to America,â�? Huber said. â�?�?When Derek left a holding area for the opening ceremony, it was a half-mile walk down the street to the stadium and the Chinese people were cheering for them. Itâ�?�?s like the Americans were holding a mini-parade to the opening ceremony.â�? The Olympians received a warm reception of another sort from special visitors, Huber said. â�?�?They took all the Olympians from the USA and put them in their own secured room, then President Bush and Laura Bush met all the athletes and posed for photos,â�? he said. The American athletes have become very popular with the Chinese people, Huber said. In turn, the U.S. athletes have bonded among themselves, he said. â�?�?(Record gold medal swimmer) Michael Phelps and the other Americans are having such a great Olympics. All these athletes are in the same village, and they feed off each other,â�? Huber said. â�?�?Derek said the U.S. basketball team has been great at being fans of the track and field team. They posed for a picture of Lebron James and Derek together. (Miles) talked with Jason Kidd, and they are really down-to-earth people.â�? Huber already has his sights set on the next Summer Olympics. â�?�?I took my wife along to the Olympic trials in Eugene (OR), but she couldnâ�?�?t go to Beijing,â�? he said. â�?�?I would really like to take the wife and kids to London in 2012.â�? XT WANG Because he returns to China each year, Wang said he could see the tremendous improvement spurred by hosting the Olympics. â�?�?Over the last eight years, you have witnessed an intensive process to prepare for the Olympics. The government and the people care about the events,â�? he said. â�?�?Every year, Beijing has been changing dramatically. Beijing has become a true metropolitan city, an international center for politics and culture.â�? About 30 structures have been built or remodeled for the Olympics, Wang said. Chinese and foreign designers teamed up on every project, he said, with the International Olympic Committee and Chinese Olympic Committee making the final decisions. Much of the attention has focused on the Birdâ�?�?s Nest and Water Cube, Wang said. All of the Olympic structures were designed for use long after the Games ended, he said. Wang praised the opening ceremony, which he said was overseen by a prominent Chinese film director. â�?�?He was asked how directing the opening ceremony compared to making pictures, and he said it was the equivalent of making 100 movies. It was such a huge engineering work,â�? Wang said. â�?�?For the opening ceremony, all the Chinese had high expectations, but I think (the director) over-achieved. The Chinese can be picky, and they criticized some parts of the opening ceremony at Athens (in 2004). But this time, I think it was the best (opening ceremony) so far of any Olympics.â�? While the Chinese have watched a wide range of events, they are particularly attracted to the record-breaking performances at the Water Cube, Wang said. â�?�?The people of China see that itâ�?�?s like an assembly line of world records,â�? he said. â�?�?People ask why are there so many records. They say that in the Water Cube, the water is deeper, there are better lighting conditions and the apparatus removes the wave.â�? American swimming has won admirers, Wang said. â�?�?Michael Phelps is a huge star in China. There is even a wax statue of him,â�? he said. Wang said he was sorry to see the controversy in which a Chinese and American gymnast tied, but the Chinese girl won a tiebreaker and the gold medal. Wang noted the rules were followed, but he would prefer to see ties allowed in future Olympics. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s the Olympics. Why should people be sad?â�? he asked. â�?�?Both people should get gold medals.â�? While the Chinese are proud of their athletesâ�?�? achievements, they also support all outstanding performances, Wang said. â�?�?What is most important is human achievement rather than competition between nations,â�? he said. â�?�?The achievements of Michael Phelps should be cheered by everybody. So should the magnificent performances by the Chinese athletes.â�? The Chinese have shown a special affection for NBA star Yao Ming, who returned to his homeland to play with the Chinese basketball team, Wang said. Ming carried the Chinese flag in the opening ceremony, walking alongside a small boy who had survived the massive Chinese earthquakes earlier this year. â�?�?It was so moving to see Yao and the little boy, who was a hero who got free from the earthquake and then tried to save others,â�? Wang said. â�?�?During the opening ceremony, (the little boy) was one of the little kids with such a natural reaction.â�? The Chinese government tackled a number issues in preparation for the Olympics, Wang said. In response to pollution concerns, the government was enforcing the â�?�?odd-evenâ�? rule in Beijing to cut the number of traffic cars in half each day, he said. They also restricted the larger semi-trucks in Beijing, he added. Security was also a major concern, Wang said. He arrived in Beijing two weeks before the Olympics and noticed tight security measures, including helicopters flying overhead. The nation was shocked when a Chinese man attacked an American couple, killing the man and seriously wounding the woman, before leaping to his death. â�?�?The murder that happened, it was highly unusual for that to happen in China at any time,â�? Wang said. â�?�?They learned it wasnâ�?�?t Olympic or terrorist-related.â�? Despite some concerns by other nations, Wang said he believes the Chinese have put on an outstanding Olympics and have taken their place on the world stage. â�?�?Overall, there is big national pride in being able to host the Olympics and display to the world that the Chinese have hospitality, economic development and cultural development,â�? he said. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s already a major event to showcase recent developments and the potential of China. I think itâ�?�?s a gradual process, and there will not be dramatic changes overnight.â�? Still, China has changed in a short amount of time, Wang said. The question is whether those changes will remain and which direction they will take. â�?�?I hope there will be permanent changes,â�? he said. â�?�?I hope the Olympics make a lasting impact. Overall, I think there will be many good things.â�? JOE COOCH Cooch traveled mostly up and down the eastern coast of China during his studies this past year. He visited Beijing and saw construction prior to the Olympics. â�?�?It was impressive to see all that was under construction. I talked to some people who have been to Beijing previously, and they said that Beijing has changed immensely,â�? he said. â�?�?The buildings under construction such as the Birdâ�?�?s Nest were incredible to see in person. But one of the coolest buildings in Beijing is the CCTVâ�?�?s new office building.â�? Through his visits to Beijing and other areas of China, Cooch said he built mostly positive impressions of China and was able to visit familiesâ�?�? homes. â�?�?The Chinese were very warm,â�? he said, adding, â�?�?Each time they treated me and the other guests like royalty, trying to show us a good time.â�? Cooch doesnâ�?�?t think the Olympics will have a huge political impact and that the attendance of political leaders at the opening ceremony was â�?�?overblownâ�? with little long-term impact. â�?�?However, I think the Olympics brought China into the American home as more than just a â�?�?scary, unknown giantâ�?�?,â�? he said. â�?�?Media tends to show predominantly negative sides of China. China does have a lot of problems that will have to be addressed, but the Olympics have shown a brighter side.â�? Even saying this, the Olympics do not solve any of the long term difficulties that face Chinese-U.S. relations. The true impact of the Beijing Olympics may not be known for years to come, Cooch said. â�?�?Overall, the Olympics has been a success, but events such as this are easily forgotten,â�? he said. â�?�?I imagine, after the Olympics, media coverage and analysis of what the Olympics meant for China and the world will be everywhere. But I think the Olympics will not have immediate effects.â�? Through athletics, the Olympics will hopefully open new dialogue between the Chinese people and those of other nations, Cooch said. â�?�?If anything, I hope that the Olympics will spark interest in China and more people will visit to experience a country with vastly different culture and history from our own,â�? he said. â�?�?Visiting will allow people to form their own opinions on China instead of just going by what they read.â�? DONGMING MEI Dongming Mei, his daughter Karen Mei and her friend Connie Gao watched the Beijing Olympics â�?�?avidly.â�? Dongming lived in China for more than 30 years, Karen for 10 years and Gao for two years. The Meis visited China last summer and plan to visit again next year. â�?�?The 2008 Beijing Olympics are a pivotal event for China. Being the host to a global event is a great honor and shows that, after decades of internal struggles, China has finally gained world recognition,â�? Dongming said. â�?�?It has brought about a tremendous surge of national pride for the people of China.â�? Eager to display its technological and economic success, China has spent more than $40 billion for the most expensive Olympics in history, Dongming said. â�?�?The opening ceremony was incredible, showcasing the long and beautiful history of Chinese culture,â�? he said. â�?�?It also showed Chinaâ�?�?s desire for global harmony with the message of â�?�?one world, one dreamâ�?�?.â�? The Chinese are extremely supportive of their athletes, with 2004 gold medalist Liu Xiang rising to celebrity status, Dongming said. But the Chinese also admire Phelps and other U.S. athletes, he said. â�?�?So far, the Chinese athletes have exceeded expectations, leading the medal count in golds. This shows just how far China has come since its first gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics,â�? he said. â�?�?The Chinese people are also very excited about the historical achievement that Michael Phelps has done in Beijing. They hope that both Chinese and Americans will share this happiness together.â�? While not in Beijing for the Olympics, the Meis and Gao were kept informed by friends and relatives in China, Dongming said. â�?�?They all felt honored with such an international opportunity,â�? he said. â�?�?Because the current global media has focused heavily on Beijing, not all of the press has been positive. Much criticism has stirred about the high level of pollution, human rights issues and other Olympic mishaps.â�? However, the Chinese government and people have shown they can make rapid advancement in a few short years, Dongming said. â�?�?Therefore, the 2008 Games are much more than just Chinaâ�?�?s coming out party,â�? he said. â�?�?They are also a way for the Chinese government to respond to the scrutiny of the world. Obviously, the Chinese government has done this with great success.â�?