live from Beijing - the final update

Although a bit "lost in translation" our roving reporter at the Olympic Games in Beijing got to see a very surprising sprint finish of the men's triathlon triathlon and managed to get some shopping done too. Enjoy his final report.

"Our trip to the Beijing Olympics was coming to an end but we still had one more event to watch: the Men's Triathlon. We woke up early to make the 1.5 hour trip back up to the Ming Tomb Reservoir and got there a little bit early – just in time to go through security with a bunch of the athletes. There was more buzz in the air and you could tell that the stands were going to be over flowing for the second day of triathlon. The sunny weather from yesterday had returned, but it was heating up already ahead of the 10am start time. Soon enough the triathletes were introduced one by one and the race volunteers were having problems finding seats for the packs of flag carrying, face paint wearing, multi-language speaking spectators. The race itself had some of the same flow as the women's, though there were more attacks and a small breakaway to keep things interesting. As you all know, the sprint finish beyond the flowered turnaround gave Germany it's first triathlon gold medal via Jan Frodeno, while Canada's Simon Whitfield took silver and Kiwi Bevan Docherty took bronze (these last two becoming the first Olympic Triathlon holders of two medals). The energy that the crowd had for the athletes definitely gave the locals a great taste of triathlon and hopefully it will inspire some of them to start swimming and running since many already bike so much for commuting. By the time the medal ceremony came around the sun had been scorching us for a few hours and it was time to make the trip back to Beijing.

Our language difficulties got in the way again and instead of getting on a bus that would take us to the subway we were on a direct bus to Beijing! Luckily a nice sophomore from Yale who had volunteered for both days of triathlon guided us back home and highlighted to me once again how high the bar has been raised for London 2012.

We were going to spend the last night in Beijing doing some shopping and my mission was to find the official Olympic triathlon t-shirts that had been impossible to purchase anywhere else. We headed down to the shopping area around the embassies where it felt like we were in New York or Chicago with a Starbucks and an Apple store in a smallish mall that houses the new Adidas store – but what was great about it is that they had a huge outdoor screen broadcasting the Olympics – and low and behold they show footage of the women's triathlon with Emma crossing the line and the podium shot. Our second stop was at "The Place" which has the world's largest LCD screen – pretty much a screen that serves as an outdoor roof for a almost a block long. A few shops later we were starving and found a nice jazz restaurant as I tried to make it the most romantic anniversary dinner I could (word to the wise for the young multisport enthusiast – choose wisely, for my wonderful wife spent 9 hrs just traveling back and forth to the tri venue in the span of 48 hrs).

Ok enough of the tourist talk – we are on a jam packed flight back to O'Hare dead tired and still trying to process what we just witnessed: two entire track and field sessions, soccer, volleyball, the women's marathon, and both days of triathlon. I think the most special part was standing up, taking my hat (flag) off, and hearing national anthems a total of eight times. It does not get old and watching the beaming and tearful athletes receive their due is unforgettable – as a spectator I feel like we also shared a tiny bit in the joy of seeing the best of the best battle it out. Getting a medal changes people and you could still see the beam in their eyes when I had Snowie, Moffatt, and Fernandes sign my Olympic flag the day after they won their medals. I can optimistically hope that these games will continue to transform the people of China as they try to expand reforms. They were great hosts and I will never tire of mentioning how hospitable, helpful, and cheerful were the thousands of locals that helped to create our Olympic experience.

Lastly, this elusive thing called the Olympic spirit has us hooked. While it is way too early to think about it, I think we might be headed to London in 2012, and of course we'll journal for ST if we do!"

Thanks for reading,
Hector, flying above Northern China.