olympiad: week one


The first week of the twenty-ninth Olympiad of the modern era, and the first to be held in China, was always going to be sprinkled with diplomatic tensions. Most were quickly diffused, and many were highly enjoyable. If, during the United States basketball team’s casual flattening of their Chinese opponents on Sunday night, you could bear to glance away from LeBron James and up to the stands, there was an exquisite awkwardness to be seen in the gestures of Yang Jiechi, the Chinese minister of foreign affairs, who was seated next to President Bush. As a matter of etiquette, how excitedly, if at all, should you applaud when your home team scores, given that your honored guest is of the enemy camp? Will the pride of that guest receive a dent? Even when Yao Ming, whose status in China is roughly equivalent to that of Simba at the end of “The Lion King,” opened the scoring in less than a minute, and the whole place went nuts, Yang contented himself with a few soft palm-pats, just above his knees, and soon after that went into a permanent freeze of geniality.

more from The New Yorker here.