Not lost in translation at China's Great Wall

Beijing 2008

August 08, 2008|By Rick Maese and Kevin Van Valkenburg

The Sun's Olympic correspondents, Rick Maese and Kevin Van Valkenburg, are blogging back and forth to each other at baltimoresun.com/olympicsblog. Some excerpts:

So it turns out you can't see The Great Wall from space. Who started that urban legend? Jayson Blair? It turns out you can't even see The Great Wall from 500 feet away if the smog is bad enough, but when you do see it, man, is it impressive.

Going to Mutianyu today was the best $50 of company money I've ever spent. Did you know that the wall is nearly 4,000 miles long? Michael Phelps supposedly swims 55 miles a week during his training, which means it would take him almost 73weeks to swim from one end of the wall to the other. I bet his coach, Bob Bowman, would be really interested in that kind of program, but I imagine Michael might balk.

Anyway, here are some other things I learned on our trip to The Great Wall today, which was made possible thanks to our awesome Chinese translator, Stephen. I wish I could remember his Chinese name, but he said we could call him Stephen, which just proves how cool he was.

*We don't have to worry about China overtaking America as the world's greatest superpower because, according to Stephen, we have the three most powerful weapons in the world: Chicken McNuggets, Hollywood movies and Disneyland. Stephen said his 4-year-old daughter already loves McNuggets, even if he thinks they taste like glue, and she wants him to take her to visit Snow White's home as soon as possible. ...

*Our friend Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports looked like he was going to commit a homicide about halfway through our 45-minute walk up the steps to The Great Wall.

Kevin Van Valkenburg

Similar to the air outside, you can cut the tension here with a knife. Perhaps even a butter knife. At any rate, you can sense actual competition is near.

This can't possibly be true, but on some level, I feel we're anticipating the start of these Games as much as the competitors. ...

Some things I learned at the Great Wall:

*We were discussing famous Chinese figures, past and present. Interestingly, our awesome tour guide Stephen explained that Bruce Lee was probably more popular in America than China. And perhaps not as surprising, Jackie Chan is huge here in China. *Unfortunately, when you take on a competition schedule as busy as Michael Phelps', you don't exactly have a lot of spare time to visit places like the Great Wall. Poor Michael Phelps.

As an added bonus, we brought along the video camera and asked locals what they thought of Phelps. The answers were surprising - from medal predictions to one young woman who bluntly stated she preferred Kobe.

Rick Maese

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