It’s interesting hanging around Beijing because many of the “tourists” you happen to run into end up looking familiar. This is because you’ve probably seen them on TV. The athletes are here for more than competition. Most of them are here for the experience. So when you think you’ve met that guy ducking into a noodle shop, it’s probably because it’s LeBron James.
You also run into ex-Olympians. I spent a bus ride talking with Matt Biondi. The three time Olympian seemed genuinely surprised that I’d recognized him. “But you’re an icon,” is what I was thinking.
On our first night we had the pleasure of meeting, and then hanging out with, Gail Devers and her family. In case you’ve never heard of the Olympics, she’s one of the most decorated sprinters in history. The five time Olympian and gold medalist isn’t retired, but she wasn’t here to compete either. Having just had her second child, she’s here working with UPS as a spokesperson. As the night wore on, while watching the US track team struggle, you could see her competitiveness coming out. At one point she said, “where are my spikes? I need to get out there!”
In all seriousness, she is discussing a comeback. If she made the London Games, she would be the oldest sprinter ever, besting Merlene Ottey by a year. We, of course, offered to help her prolong “the R word,” as she called it, for as long as possible. She sounded excited. So, hopefully, in 2012 she’ll be at the Games as a spokesperson for us as well as UPS, while going for the gold at 45.