Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It is 8/8/08, and the Games of the XXIX Olympiad officially began at 8:08 p.m. Beijing time (CST). There are a lot of 8s in that equation, and, as you no doubt have heard by now, the number 8 in Chinese culture is supposed to have significant ramifications for wealth.

We will be able to see the opening ceremonies tonight beginning at 6:30 p.m. on NBC. The bad news is that the broadcast will take place 14 hours after the event actually happened. The good news is that, for the first time, the Games will be broadcast in high definition. If there are any surprises, for better or worse, at the Beijing National Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest,” then we will know prior to the NBC broadcast. Still, it should be must-see-TV tonight.

This year there will be more than 10,000 athletes in Beijing competing in 28 sports, and 205 nations, ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, will be sending athletes. The largest delegation will come from the host country, China, with close to 700 athletes, while the U.S. of A. will send just under 600. In contrast, the tiny island nation of Nauru is expected to be represented by a sole athlete, weightlifter Itte Detenamo, who will be making his second appearance in an Olympic games.

While the next 16 days of competition will be remembered for some unforeseen and yet-to-unfold events, there a few things that will be the focus of NBC’s coverage. First and foremost will be American swimmer Michael Phelps’ quest for an unprecedented eight gold medals, which would top the previous “Mark” for golds in a single games ” swimmer Mark Spitz won seven in 1972. This is Phelps’ third Olympics. Four years ago in Athens he won six golds and eight total medals. In 2000 in Sydney, he competed at the age of 15 but did not medal.

With eight golds, Phelps may be the prime beneficiary of the “wealth” that the Chinese ascribe to the number. He already has a number of endorsement contracts, but if he is successful in sweeping the swimming events at the “Water Cube,” as the swimming venue is known, he will no doubt cash in big time.

Look for saturation coverage of the USA basketball team as it looks to rebound from a disappointing finish four years ago in Athens when it took home a bronze. Argentina is the defending champion. And then there is the race for the world’s fastest man. The 100-meter-dash record will be in jeopardy as American Tyson Gay will likely line up alongside Jamaicans Usain Bolton and Asafa Powell on Saturday, Aug. 16, at 8:30 a.m. local time for the starting gun.

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The Olympics have become perhaps the world’s most significant global gathering. For some they are time when the world comes together for peaceful athletic competition. For others the Games have become political and cultural events that transcend the competition.

While they are some of both, the Games can be riveting for the personal stories of accomplishment they hold. NBC will feature an astounding 1,400 hours of television coverage on nine separate channels, all owned by Universal, including MSNBC, USA and Oxygen. That is an average of 82 hours a day for the 17 days. If that is not enough then you can always go online where there will be an additional 2,000 hours of coverage.

If you like the Olympics, then this is your time.

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