I just don't see Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals here in Beijing. Going 8-for-8 against this caliber of competition will be too difficult.
He might even lose in his very first event, the 400 individual medley against U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte, tonight (EDT).
Even if Phelps wins that one, he will stumble somewhere along the way (watch out for the 200 freestyle).
This is not to demean Phelps – the best swimmer there ever has been. It's just too hard to win eight in 2008; there are too many good swimmers. If Phelps can do what he did in Athens, with six gold medals, he should be very happy.
I did like the Fu Manchu mustache Phelps showed up with in Beijing. He said he was just “playing around with facial hair.”
Charlotte Observer sports editor Mike Persinger and I went to the Great Wall on Friday and found it as awesome as we hoped. You had to drive out of Beijing a little more than an hour to get there, through the enormous city until you came to very green and hilly areas that looked a lot like the North Carolina mountains.
The Great Wall itself was surprisingly mountainous. Tourists were dropping out left and right as they saw yet another flight of 100 stairs looming above them. Villagers who live nearby carry bottled water up there every day and they do a good business, because it's one of the most strenuous hikes you will ever do.
We also found out from our Chinese tour guide – a 26-year-old woman named Selina – that while Americans always say “cheese” just before taking a picture to make people smile, in China most picture-takers have their subjects repeat the Mandarin word for eggplant. The word apparently makes the mouth muscles move the same way.
I watched some of the opening ceremony on TV, just like a lot of you did. I've found over the course of covering four Olympic Games that TV actually offers the best view. Although not usually a fan of such ceremonies, I thought the first hour was spectacular. Then it was time for the athlete parade, which is always boring to me. I'm just not one of those people who love a parade.
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