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One World, One Dream

August 26, 2008

For much of the world, the past 17 days have been consumed by the 2008 Summer Olympics. Yet, Hong Kong has been watching and waiting for seven years since Beijing was awarded the Games in 2001. When it was first announced, I worried whether China would be able to live up to the promises made to the international community. I knew money was not an issue but everything else might be.

Over the past seven years, China has moved heaven and earth to make sure these Olympics would be successful. Along the way, of course, there were inevitable controversies over everything from politics to pollution. Beijing wanted the Games to be perfect, but the chances of that happening seemed dim the closer the calendar moved to 8-8-08.

Protests marred the Torch Relay. Smog clogged the skies over the city. Journalists complained of press restrictions. Leaders threatened boycott. It seemed everything was conspiring to ruin China's big coming-out party.

Ironically, it took an earthquake to change the world's perception of China. As the country mobilized a tremendous rescue operation in Sichuan, world opinion softened. A huge wave of compassion washed over the nation, including those of us in Hong Kong.

Thus when the Summer Games were ready to begin, we didn't know what to expect. All we could do was hope and pray that Beijing was up to the task. The country's reputation (and ours) was at stake.

The next two weeks proved to be a roller coaster of highs and lows:

Our jaws dropped at the spectacular Opening Ceremony. As one incredible act followed another, we gasped in amazement. We'd never seen anything like it in our lives. As it turned out, a few parts were too good to be true – the lip-synching little girl, the computer generated fireworks – but overall, it was a stunning display of China's contribution to the world. What a proud moment for the nation and for all those who cherish its culture.

Then shock and horror the following day.  American tourist Hugh McCutcheon was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Beijing by a suicidal local. The tragedy cast a dark shadow over a normally safe city. After discovering that McCutcheon was the relative of the Olympic volleyball coach, I felt a doubly guilty. Not only had we failed to protect the safety of visitors, we had lost a great supporter of the Olympic movement.

As the medal count began, we regained our emotional balance. Of course Hong Kongers were cheering for China (though I rooted for the U.S.A. to balance things a bit). The most highly anticipated race was the 110 meter hurdles where superstar Liu Xiang was expected to win another gold medal to match the one he got in 2004. The country watched in disbelief as Liu collapsed on the track, unable to run due to injury.  'The nation's shattered dream' screamed the headlines the next day, and they were not far off the mark.

But as world records continued to fall, we consoled ourselves with new heroes and the fact that things were going exceedingly well. Blue skies finally broke out over Beijing, a weather miracle courtesy of stringent measures, favorable winds, and plain luck.

As the Games came to a rousing finish, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief – and satisfaction. Not only had the Beijing Games ended successfully, but Hong Kong also did an incredible job hosting the Olympic Equestrian events. Yes, we too were an Olympic city, and we managed to carry it off between two typhoons!

Looking back, I have to thank God for this wonderful opportunity for China to show hospitality to the whole world.  The Olympics have changed the country for good. May China continue to use these blessings wisely to bring peace, prosperity and human dignity to all its people and every land.

With best wishes,

Judy Chan serves with the Hong Kong Christian Council.  She is responsible for communications for the Council.  She is also in charge of ecumenical radio broadcasting ministry, English publications and ecumenical partnerships in Hong Kong and overseas.


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