By Austin Shiner
BEIJING, China, 12:37 p.m. — My close range perspective has defined my Olympic experience. Although I’ve seen the athletes and venues in person and experienced five weeks of the host city’s culture, I know little about America’s Olympic pursuits. Realize my situation: I don’t understand any televised Olympic coverage and many high-priority Chinese events, such as weight lifting, archery, and shooting, don’t interest me. Without Bob Costas’ guiding hand I feel lost. Michael Phelps attracted only short-lived attention and I’ve heard none of the inspirational Olympic stories that typically dot NBC coverage. I’d bet that, in some ways, the average American knows more about these Olympics than I do. But then, if the devil’s in the details, there’s no replacing the local experience. Swarms of Olympic volunteers guide my way to, from, and around the Olympic village: such personal service, always given with a smile, is humbling. As mentioned by fellow blogger Donnell Gavin, this Olympic apparatus easily breaks down and leads to mild spectator confusion, but one cannot help but be amazed by the volunteers’ blazing enthusiasm and the system’s overall efficacy. Medal ceremonies, complete with orchestral national anthems, are touching. And then, when the day’s events end, there’s the food and celebration. Olympic Beijing combines feverous national spirit with uniquely broad internationalism that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. Yet, without John William’s “Olympic Theme” and NBC’s enveloping telecasts, my Olympics have felt less than whole.