When trying to put down my thoughts about the meaning of the Beijing Olympics, I keep getting drawn back to this picture of Cappie Pondexter jumping on teammate Diana Taurasi in celebration of the U.S. Womens Gold Medal victory in Basketball–“She ain’t heavy, she’s my sister”–as the old song almost went. The Olympics show off the wonderful potpourri of races and ethnicities that is 21st Century America. Part of our joy that kept us transfixed to the screen for the past two weeks is a celebration of our diversity. What ever the talk from the pundit class about the incipient racism that may be impeding Obama’s campaign, I’m not buying it.
NBC won the lottery as far as the last two weeks went. Dick Ebersol, Pres. of NBC Sports explains.
As the Games neared, ad sales picked up — and, after the Games started off so well, they exploded. Mr. Ebersol said that in the end it may have been NBC’s good fortune that the country was going through some tough times.
“The economy was so dark,” Mr. Ebersol said. “But with $4 a gallon gas, more people were staying home. Many fewer were taking vacations.”
That made people both more available and more susceptible to the pull of the Olympics.
“When these Games came along, it was really at a point where the country was just ready for something they could really get crazy about,” he said.
Equally important for those of us that study digital technology, NBC put up 2200 hours of online video and had 72 million videos streamed in the U.S.
Despite what the China naysayers will tell you, I think the Olympics was a big win for China. As Nick Kristoff reported yesterday, Chinese Internet censorship is loosening and I don’t think this process will stop after the games. Chinese pride at no longer being regarded as “the sick man of Asia”, will allow this opening to continue. This is not to say that China is not going to be encountering economic headwinds as I wrote yesterday. The Wall Street Journal outlined three big problems for China in the next few years.
“Americans who worry that China might overtake the United States are worrying about the wrong thing,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wrote in an article published last week. “Serious troubles in China’s economy could threaten the stability of the U.S. and global economies.”
Three challenges especially stand out for the Chinese: The nation’s changing work force, a widening in the gap between rich and poor and severely constrained supplies of energy and environmental resources.