Shaquille O’Neal watches over Chaoyang Park in Beijing. Thanks to Bill Marcus for the photo (that’s Bill next to Shaq’s left sneaker), and for interviewing some guys at the court for us.
Yao Ming will carry the flag for China at tomorrow’s opening ceremony, just like he did at the last Olympic games in Athens. This time around, there was some question about whether Chinese track star Liu Xiang, also from Shanghai, would do it. It’s an understatement though to say that Yao is big in China. That’s something I talked about with Mary Nicole Nazarro. She writes for Sports Illustrated and has been blogging from Beijing on the Olympics. Listen to my interview with Nazarro here.
Yao Ming’s story is fascinating. Peter Hessler’s 2003 profile of Yao in the New Yorker is a must read.
As for the so-called “Redeem Team” of 2008, LeBron James has guaranteed gold. Mark Heisler covers the Lakers for the LA Times. He’s in China now covering USA men’s basketball. Heisler told me that there will never be another “Dream Team” like the one that decimated its opponents in Barcelona 1992. Bird, Johnson, Jordan… give me a break! But he said this current group, led by Bryant, James and Kidd are doing the things that they will have to do to re-capture the top spot at the Olympics. Listen to the interview with Heisler here.
The Washington Times has an Olympics basketball preview here.
And here’s my radio story that went on the air Thursday, 7 August.