Skip to site content

8/8/08 Olympic Opening Date No Accident

As many Americans leave for work Friday morning, the sun will be setting on the first full day of the Beijing Olympics.The date China chose for their first time to host the Olympics is 8/8/08. All those eights make it a unique date.

In Chinese “eight” (ba) is pronounced “baa” ,as in Mary Had A Little Lamb, but a tad shorter. The months of the year are named after the numbers 1 to 12, January to December.

The number 8 (ba) is auspicious in Chinese, as it is in rhyme pronounced like the word “fa” (fa qian, which is part of the expression meaning “to become wealthy”).

Thousands of couples in Beijing took out marriage licenses to have the ceremony on Aug. 8, 2008. The automobile license plate with only the number eight goes for millions of U.S. dollars. There were many bids in Beijing to get that number.

China has opened two large press centers. They are the largest ever provided for the press. It is estimated that 21,000 foreign and domestic reporters will cover the games. China has been promising press freedom during the Olympics for some time. They will allow journalists complete freedom, including unfettered access use of the Internet.

Hard as they try the Chinese are too paranoid to offer real, open access. Access to Tiananmen Square, the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Beijing’s center is restricted. China’s government has yet to admit to the death and injury their army did to the peaceful protesting students at Tiananmen June 4, 1989. I know the students were peaceful. I was there walking among them for days before the crackdown.

Taiwan is going to Beijing Olympics as China: Taipei. Since the 1960 Rome Olympics Taiwan has not been permitted to use the name Republic of China. That year Taiwan’s hero was Iron Man C.K. Yang (Yang Chuan Kwang). At Rome he won the silver medal in the decathlon behind Rafer Johnson. Johnson had to come a close second in the final race to beat out Yang. Johnson won the race and the gold medal for the decathlon.

Yang was from the Amis tribe of Taiwanese aborigines. The Iron Man of Asia suffered from liver cancer and died Jan. 28, 2007.

The young C.K. Yang had a chance meeting in Taiwan with two-time Olympic decathlon champion Bob Mathias and was inspired to become the world’s greatest decathlete. He went to UCLA and trained with Rafer Johnson. Yang was fifth in the 1964 Olympics.

Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Silver Stars, one of the best guards in the Women’s National Basketball Association, was not picked to be on the Olympic basketball team. The Russians invited her to play for them and will pay her $1 million to boot. Some called her unpatriotic to play for Russia. The Olympic is not about politics. The athletes are playing for the greatest prize in sports. Not for one flag or another.

One Silver Star is going to play for the U.S.A. She is former Notre Dame player Ruth Riley. Her sister Rachel was in Iraq as an Arabic linguist and later a Blackhawk pilot.

Ruth Riley writes in her blog that Rachel was “medically discharged with severe depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).” While returned physically, “in all reality, my … sister, [is] in essence still missing in action.”

Ruth writes her sister’s opponent is far greater than can be faced on a basketball court. Every day Rachel faces in her mind the anger, frustration, doubt, hopelessness and depression brought to her in the war. Ruth wants more people to be aware of the thousands of our military who are going through such a hell on earth.

When you watch the U.S.A. women’s basketball team in the Olympics, keep an eye out for Ruth Riley and pray for her sister Rachel and all those who battle with PTSD.

Britt Towery, a former Baptist missionary and free-lance writer, lives in San Angelo, Texas.