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Le.Monde.NY.Times.Edition.July.26.2008

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SATURDAY, JULY 26, 2008

Copyright © 2008 The New York Times

Une sélection hebdomadaire offerte par

BEIJING 2008

Pride and Politics

ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Striking new landmarks like the National Stadium, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, are helping Beijing forge a new identity as it prepares to host the Olympics. Page 8.

Athletes Find
Olympic Glory
Can Be a Trap

Phone Call From China
Altered Course of Games
By LYNN ZINSER

By JULIET MACUR

FENGCHENG, China — As a reward for winning an Olympic gold
medal in flatwater canoeing four years
ago, Yang Wenjun — the son of peasant
rice farmers — was handed the deed to
a three-bedroom apartment here in a
neighborhood called Sunny City.
The local government bought and
decorated it, hanging giant scrolls in
the living room that announce in Mandarin: “Yang Wenjun won gold in the
Olympics. It brings good luck here.’’
But his mother, Nie Chunhua, said
Yang had been anything but lucky. She
wiped away tears with hands dark and
swollen from farming.
“If I had better economic condition,
I would not like him to do sports,’’ Ms.
Nie, 49, said this spring. “Every time I
think about him training, I feel so sad
that my heart hurts. For him, and for
me, there is so much pain.’’
Mr. Yang, one of China’s most suc-

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES

Yang Wenjun, right, and Meng Guanliang won a canoeing gold medal
in 2004, but Yang wishes he no longer was obliged to compete.
cessful water sports athletes, has
never lived in his apartment. He has
not seen his parents in three years.
At 24, he lives 400 kilometers away at
his sport’s training center, where he is
preparing for the Beijing Olympics.
Mr. Yang said he could not stand his

life.
For nearly a decade, he has tried to
quit canoeing, he told The New York
Times during an interview at the training center. He said he would rather

Continued on Page 4

The call he will never forget came for
Peter Ueberroth in the middle of the night
on May 12, 1984, over a crackling phone
line from Beijing. It carried the news he
felt would determine if the Games he was
working to organize in Los Angeles that
summer would succeed.
Mr. Ueberroth also believed the future
of the Olympics were in doubt.
At the other end of the line was Charles
Lee, the man he had dispatched to persuade the Chinese to send their team
to the Olympics for the first time. Mr.
Ueberroth, the leader of the Los Angeles organizing committee, was asking
China to defy a Soviet Union-led boycott
tha...
Une sélection hebdomadaire offerte par
S
ATURDAY, JULY 26, 2008
Copyright © 2008 The New York Times
BEIJING 2008
Pride and Politics
PhoneCallFromChina
AlteredCourseofGames
By LYNN ZINSER
The call he will never forget came for
PeterUeberrothinthemiddleofthenight
on May 12, 1984, over a crackling phone
line from Beijing. It carried the news he
feltwoulddetermineiftheGameshewas
working to organize in Los Angeles that
summer would succeed.
Mr.Ueberroth alsobelievedthefuture
of the Olympics were in doubt.
AttheotherendofthelinewasCharles
Lee, the man he had dispatched to per-
suade the Chinese to send their team
to the Olympics for the first time. Mr.
Ueberroth,theleaderoftheLosAnge-
les organizing committee, was asking
China to defy a Soviet Union-led boycott
that was announced four days earlier.
The Soviets said the boycott would keep
100 countries away from the ’84 Games.
If the Soviets succeeded, Mr. Ueberroth
said, “we were done.’’
SalvationcamewhenMr.Leecalled
andtoldMr.Ueberroth,“Theyrecom-
ing.
Now, no matter what political issues
arise — and with China there are many:
human rights, Tibet, its relationship
with the government of Sudan — large-
scaleboycottsarenolongerpartofthe
discussion. Political statements com
e in
smaller forms: which heads of state will
attend or stay home, whether athletes
willspeakoutabouttheir political views.
Recently, President Bush announced he
would attend the opening ceremony.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Brit-
ain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of
Germany have said they will not.
Mr.Ueberroth,now70andthechair-
man of the United States Olympic Com-
mittee, will lead the American team into
China with a deep sense of gratitude. He
ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Striking new landmarks like the National Stadium, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, are helping Beijing forge a new identity as it prepares to host the Olympics. Page 8.
By JERÉ LONGMAN
Olympic marathon runners are no
less obsessed about shoes than the
women from “Sex and the City.
Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor of the
United States began testing the lat-
estdesignfromthedistance-running
equivalent of Manolo Blahnik. Their
shoemaker is a Japanese master crafts-
manwhosesolesarerenownednotfor
space-agegelsorairbladdersbutforthe
gripping properties of rice husks.
Theracingflats,withhusksground
andimbeddedintherubbersoles,are
designedto absorb waterand to provide
up to 10 percent better traction along the
26.2-mile marathon course at the Olym-
pics in August.
Thesolesarecustommadeforahand-
fulofeliterunnersbyHitoshiMimura,
59,aformermarathonrunnerwhoisa
master craftsman for Asics, the Japa-
nesesportinggoodsmanufac-
turer.
“The Olympics are the epito-
meofrunning,”saidMs.Kastor,
abronzemedalistinthewomens
marathon at the 2004 Athens
Olympics.“Thereisaverysmallmar-
ginoferrorinpreparingandracing.
Youtrynottoleaveanystoneunturned.
Those fractions of a second add up.
Shoeswithwet-gripsolesdesignedby
Mr.MimurawereonthefeetofMizuki
NoguchiofJapanwhensheranthrough
the streets of Athens to win thewomen’s
marathon at the2004 SummerOlympics.
Ms.NoguchiwasquotedinaJapanese
news report as saying that she slept with
therice-huskshoesnexttoherpillowthe
nightbeforehervictory.Atthefinishline
in Athens, she took off one of her racing
flats and kissed it. Later, she called Mr.
Mimura the “god of shoes.”
Ms. Noguchi said she would wear an
updatedversionofher“magicshoes”to
defend her title in Beijing.
Imlookingforashoetogetexcited
about,”Mr.Hallsaid.“Ifyouvegota
shoethatsomebodywantsto sleepin the
bed with, thats a pretty good shoe.
When Ms. Kastor first met with Mr.
Mimura in 2001 at the world track cham-
pionships, he spent 20 minutes measur-
ing her feet, including the length and cir-
cumferenceofeachtoe,thewidthofher
heel, the length of her Achilles’ tendon
andthewidthofherfootatsixorseven
spots.
Ididntknowyoucouldgetthatmany
measurementsforafoot,”shesaid.“But
theshoeshemadefitlikeaglove.
Shoeselectionfortherunnersisa
important, because the Beijing course
could become slippery from rain, slick
fromhumidity,slitheryatwaterstops
and misting stations, and glassy along
a four-mile stretch of stones.
“Samurai cannot fight without their
swords,”Mr.Mimurasaid.“Itisthe
same for runners and their shoes.
Designing‘MagicShoes’forRunners
KOSASAKIFORTHENEWYORKTIMES
A Japanese shoemaker believes
rice husks imbedded in soles will
improvetractionforeliterunners.
Continued on Page 4
Crops or Water?
Countries in the Mideast are
rethinking their food supply.
WORLD TRENDS 5
By JULIET MACUR
FENGCHENG,China—Asare-
wardforwinninganOlympicgold
medalinflatwatercanoeingfouryears
ago,YangWenjun—thesonofpeasant
ricefarmers—washandedthedeedto
a three-bedroom apartment here in a
neighborhood called Sunny City.
The local government bought and
decorated it, hanging giant scrolls in
thelivingroomthatannounceinMan-
darin: “Yang Wenjun won gold in the
Olympics.Itbringsgoodluckhere.
Buthismother,NieChunhua,said
Yanghad been anything butlucky.She
wiped awaytearswithhandsdarkand
swollen from farming.
“If I had better economic condition,
I would not like him to do sports,’’ Ms.
Nie, 49, said this spring. “Every time I
think about him training, I feel so sad
thatmyhearthurts.Forhim,andfor
me, there is so much pain.’’
Mr.Yang,oneofChinasmostsuc-
cessful water sports athletes, has
neverlivedinhisapartment.Hehas
notseenhisparentsinthreeyears.
At 24, he lives 400 kilometers away at
his sport’s training center, where he is
preparing for the Beijing Olympics.
Mr. Yang said he could not stand his
life.
For nearly a decade, he has tried to
quitcanoeing,hetoldTheNewYork
Timesduringaninterviewatthetrain-
ing center. He said he would rather
A
thletes Find
Olympic Glory
CanBeaTrap
Continued on Page 4
ONLINE: OLYMPICS
Complete coverage including blogs,
multimedia and more:
nytimes.com/olympics
Note to Readers
The International Weekly
will take a break and resume
publication on August 30.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES
Yang Wenjun, right, and Meng Guanliang won a canoeing gold medal
in 2004, but Yang wishes he no longer was obliged to compete.
CAHIER DU « MONDE » DATÉ SAMEDI 26JUILLET 2008, N
O
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