And Finally

Full medal racket

Everyone would love to win an Olympic gold, and now you can (sort of)

Taste the gold medal experience

We can all be winners if we want it badly enough, according to the perma-tanned promises of motivational speakers the world over.

But why spend a fortune on seminars when you can head down to the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing and receive your gold medal? Instant gratification and no need for a group hug either.

The Beijing News reported last month that more than 3 million visitors had toured the Bird’s Nest – the arena in which the track and field events were held, as well as the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies – in the six months to February.

But the stadium costs $9 million annually just to maintain, so new revenue raising ideas are always welcome. And the latest one is a step up – literally.

Visitors to the stadium are being given the chance to pull on China’s red-and-yellow team kit, climb up to the award ceremony podium, and accept a medal and flowers from a suitably respectful (if pretend) Olympic official.

And all for only Rmb120 (or $17). The package allows for a personal reliving of China’s triumphant Olympic experience (51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals) last August.

“People want to experience the feeling of being a champion,” says Zhang Hengli, manager of the CITIC Consortium Stadium Operation Company, which runs the stadium. “We asked what they wanted to do in the Bird’s Nest after the Olympics and that was their answer.”

Not everyone agrees with him. Some worry about a degrading of the Olympic ideal. Others argue that the ceremonies may contravene the intellectual property rights of the International Olympic Committee, as well as risk offending the Olympic champions themselves.

But the adverse comments seem a little precious. The IOC has never been opposed to a money-spinning idea, after all, and it is hard to see why a genuine medallist would object to a few fans enjoying a brief moment of imaginary glory.

The stadium is limiting the opportunity to wave from the podium to 2008 visitors a day.

This will not leave much time to recreate famous Olympian images of the past.

Indeed, there won’t be much opportunity for showboating, or for more solemn renactment – like the Black Power salute of US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Olympics in 1968.

In fact, it must be a rather perfunctory ceremony: a quick stumble through an off-key national anthem, a trembling hand clasped to patriotic heart, and some brief tears of reflection on a childhood lost to shin splints and overbearing parents.

Put like that, how much nicer to only pretend to be a champion, rather than actually have to be the real thing.


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