I'm a small part of a large team that has been scrambling in preparation for Johnson & Johnson's participation as a sponsor of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. There have been so many details, and so many folks working so hard on them, that it's often been difficult to take a step back and see the significance of it all.
Yes, as you've read in many places, the air is thick. But the air is also thick with something of significance.
That is the sound of many languages… the sound of a child laughing with delight at a live cultural event… the halting English of a Beijing native who is trying to help an American find a taxi. It is the sound of old China merging with new China. It is the sound of the rest of the world reconciling itself to this merger.
It's the sound of human potential - as exemplified by sport - once again helping make the world a smaller and friendlier place.
And yes, as you've already seen or heard, the opening ceremony was awesome - 2,008 synchronized drummers will really rock a stadium. It was also touching. Those of us fortunate enough to have attended will likely see no grander, more positive spectacle in our lifetimes.
As today wore on, the sound of tensions emerged too, in reports of an attack on tourists and a tour guide, followed by suicide of the attacker.
At a whole different level, a simple fable that Johnson & Johnson sponsored in a public park in Beijing really captured the Games for me. In this dance fable, a young girl (representing the China of today) is attracted to a butterfly and begins to follow it. Her movement catches the notice of an ancient warrior, embodied in terra cotta armor (representing China's traditions). He wakes and seems touched by the girl's play. To help her attract the butterfly, he faces a dilemma - he must put down his sword to join her game. Ultimately, the terra cotta warrior does relinquish the weapon. Then, the butterfly lights gently upon him, and the warrior and the girl become friends.
Admittedly, we tell this simple tale with twenty-foot tall marionettes controlled by cranes and dozens of dancers (this IS the Olympics after all). But the mesmerizing live act represents, for me, the true tensions and hopes inherent in these magnificent Games.
My appreciation does go out to China and its people for creating this opportunity. And, then, for remaining open to it, my gratitude extends to the rest of the world.