Some days, the job is fun.
Saturday morning: Wake up, scramble to the Water Cube, see fading, fatigued Michael Phelps lose Gold No. 7 in the 100 butterfly to Serbia's Miloslav Cavic ... no no, he won it, by a fingernail, tying Mark Spitz's single-Games record for golds ... then have the Serbs protest, with vitriol and outrage, in the dim-lit warrens of the Cube's halls and byways ... then have the Serb -- a Berkeley dude, happy to win anything -- protest the protest ... then have the FINA decision formally explained by FINA officials straight out of Central Casting, in heavily accented English; the officials even drop in a product placement endorsement for Omega, whose timing devices and cameras they used to refute the naked-eye perception that Phelps lost ... and write five different deadline stories as the stuff unfolds.
Saturday afternoon: Sunny, no smog, little humidity, even a breeze. Snag a cab to the Great Wall, strike a deal for the cabbie to wait an hour, get there with no hassle, exit the cab and haggle with the streetside vendors, who hawk you like macaws, selling Olympic Games and Great Wall shirts, hats and pins.
As for the structure: They call it the Great Wall for a reason. It's Great.
The Badaling section is the Disneyland presentation, commercialized, easy-access. But magnificent.
Imagine being on a castle wall; that, essentially, is what the Wall is. Now, normally, castle walls are built on level ground, and they're a managable: 300-400 feet on each side, maybe; some much more, a few less.
Well, the Great Wall at Badaling and the surrounding area is built on a mountain range. The incline on top of the wall is so steep you sometimes need to lean forward and grab the stone in front of you; it's like climbing a mountain. But it's a castle wall. On a mountain. And it's big.
It's about 4,000 miles long. It's about 25 feet high at Badaling, and the stones used to build it are massive, and it's truly a wonder. If you don't see it, you cannot appreciate it. .
It was built of many materials in many regions over 2,000 years. It is spectacular.
At least, is was for an hour.
A quick cab ride back and a schedule check and, hey, a trip to Hard Rock Beijing was possible before the men's 100-meter semis. So, we went.
After 10 days of Chinese food ...
Burgers. Steaks. Wings. Fries. Ahhh.
Back in time ... to see Tyson Gay choke out of the semis.
Then, Usain Bolt flew into history without really trying.
To review: Phelps' most memorable race ever; Great Wall on a beautiful day; home cookin'; Gay gone; Bolt, lightning.
The rest is downhill, baby.