"Here we go." That was my sendoff to my seatmate on United flight 889 from San Francisco yesterday, the same one that transported the U.S. women's gymnastics team, a handful of track athletes - including all of the men's long jumpers - and a smattering of athletes from Mexico and Costa Rica to Beijing for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. I sat next to the CEO of a major sports marketing agency and we spent much of the flight reminiscing about our favorite athletes, moments in the Olympics, moments in sport...and as we did, I knew that whatever happens in the next three and a half weeks, there would be much to talk about for many years to come from these Summer Olympics.
The first good piece of news came quickly, as we admired the view of the mountains north of Beijing as the plane approached Beijing Capital Airport. The skies were gorgeous yesterday, and today - Saturday - there was more of the same. Blue skies in Beijing are a welcome sight after what I experienced during my last trip to Beijing in June, when the sun was literally invisible all week behind the grit of metallic-tasting smog so thick it obscured buildings three blocks away. Whatever's making things better, I hope the Chinese leadership keeps doing it - and well past these Olympics; their citizens deserve to live in far better conditions than having to deal with perpetual smog and dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air.
The second piece of good news was that apparently the IOC and BOCOG have been able to come to some agreement about lifting the blocks on at least some of the websites that were inaccessible from the Olympic press center earlier in the week. I'll have more to say about that issue in the coming days.
But for now, it's off to rest after fighting the jet lag yesterday and today. The SI team arrives in Beijing in waves over the next few days and six days from now, it's go time for real. SI will be there to bring you all of the news from Beijing, both on and off the field of play.