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August 18, 2008

Braving The Today Show Crowd

In the past few days, almost everyone has had something to say about Michael Phelps -- photographers and reporters I’ve met, locals speaking in Chinese on the subway, or my family and friends back home. Even though I live only a few miles from the Water Cube, I haven’t been able to see Phelps perform myself, not even on television. With a bit of luck and good timing, that changed today.

I decided to stand in the crowd at the Today Show this evening, so my family and friends back home could have a chance to see me and my rather pathetic homemade sign. I spent the afternoon on the Olympic Green, and stopped by the set a couple hours early to see if anyone was already waiting along the metal barriers -- I found that the coast was clear. I asked a guard for advice, and he told me that I should be able to get a good spot as long as I arrived a few minutes before the show began at 7:00.

I decided to play it safe, so I returned around 6:30, but found hundreds of spectators already standing two rows deep. I didn’t really mind, as long as my family would be able to catch a glimpse of my sign. I found a good spot directly behind what I assumed must be one of the anchor’s outdoor chairs -- it was perfect, until it began to rain. The crew rushed all of the equipment inside, and placed the chair several feet to the left of its original position after the rain had stopped.

As it turns out, the chair that had previously been in front of me was later used for an interview with Phelps, and he was sitting in it, putting me in a great position to snap some photos, but not for my family to see my sign. But the second I heard the first Chinese spectator yell “Michael Phelps,” I knew I was in trouble -- in less than a second, the pushing began, and lasted for about ten minutes. Fans were pushing and shoving from every direction, and I was in the middle of all the action. Most of the locals here have a very limited English vocabulary -- it’s obvious that “Michael Phelps” has made it in, but “excuse me” and “deodorant” are still nowhere to be found.



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