(I had written this on August 16th, but just got it off my Palm and into an email — sorry for the time lag.)
I am writing this on my Palm Treo outside Workers Stadium, drawn here by the occasional sound of cheering lifted up into the lit sky above an Olympic soccer match — according to the chinese, french and english announcements I just heard, apparently italy beat belgium. I have heard this sound before and remembered where: 1990, when I was playing SimCity on a computer so slow it took 10 seconds for the screen to refresh when you scrolled across. If your city was doing well, from time to time you would hear the simulated roar of fans screaming from football stadiums that would pop up across the city. It sounded exactly like Workers Stadium does now.
From time to time, societies get to lay out their visions of themselves so everyone can see. In 1939, General Motors had a futuristic exhibit at the New York World Expo, at that time between the Depression and World War II, when mainstream America was still on its first awkward dates with the automobile. In the GM exhibit, visitors could ride a little train around a scale map of the America of the future: wide open plains, covered with highways that didn’t yet exist — but one day would, as the visionaries proved true (or probably more accurately, ensured became true). When I first saw the clips of excited spectators, I too became thrilled with the concepts of freedom and independence, of exploring the country and experiencing America’s natural beauty, in these awesome and powerful automobile machines. But then a wave of sorrow passed over me: how this vision has evolved into suburban sprawl and stripmalls, fractured communities and energy crises, environmental devastation and solitary commutes that gobble up 10 pct of people’s working years.
In a few weeks, the flood of journalists that washed up on Beijing’s shores will recede back to Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention. This summer, first China and then the US will get to define their visions, build their futurama expos. Here at the Olympics, I want to understand what is it that this ‘one world’ (and ‘One China’) cherish as its ‘one dream’? In Denver, what will Obama and the Democratic party themselves say they ‘hope’ for?
As for my dream: I hope that Beijing becomes the city it is today, this lovely August 16th. The sky is blue with poofy white clouds. The flowers smell like honey and the grass smells freshly cut. People of every banner are here, cheering on themselves, and cheering China too.
The soccer game is over now and the crowds are gone. I am watching a man in a dirty orange jumpsuit with a broom made of straw sweeping up the Coke bottles and Tsingdao beer bottles, while a mosquito is biting at my ankle now.
It itches. Anyway, it’s time to go.