Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Historian Sees The Real Power Staying In China, While The Symbolic Olympic Baton is Passed To London

Quist says China Stakes Its Claim As The World's Future Superpower.

Every four years the summer Olympic Games evokes my personal lament of what could have been. This year, however, the games were a forecast of what is going to be.

Almost five decades ago I was a Silver Medalist in the US Track & Field Championships and a Gold Medalist and record holder in the javelin at the Pan American Games. Based upon my number two ranking in 1959 I was an odds-on favorite to earn a spot on the US Olympic Team headed for Rome in 1960. While attempting to qualify for the Olympic trials that year however a field judge ruled that my first two throws landed flat and my third throw was out of bounds. My Olympic dream ended without a mark.

Four years in a long time to prepare for a second chance to chase an Olympic dream. Marriage, a new career and a family took precedence but the inner lure of the dream lingered and the passion prevailed. Three weeks prior to the 1964 trials at the age of 28, I threw 15 feet beyond my previous personal best five years earlier — a sure sign that the dream was in sight. On my very next throw a sharp pain seared through my Achilles tendon and the fickle finger of fate struck again. I joined a long list of those who "couda, woulda, and shoulda" made the team.

For those who just observed the XXIX Olympiad, there was a consensus that the Beijing Games were "spectacular." To the athletes themselves, most of whom were millennials, the event was "awesome." To this writer however, who has observed this, the greatest athletic event in the world since 1956, Beijing was a portent of change to come.

For decades and maybe even centuries, China has endured an image as a backward, unprogressive, tightly controlled feudal country while at the same time confident that western civilization (particularly America) was in a rapid moral and financial decline. The 2008 Beijing Olympic games was to the Chinese all about global perception and respect for the host country. Few could claim that China did not achieve their goal.

The opening ceremonies were a divining rod. The men's furious, well-synchronized beating of the drums symbolized China's power. The women, who discarded their drab olive-green, Mao Tse Tung pant suits for svelte, body revealing costumes exuded grace and beauty. The exorbitant cost of the spectacle was a testament to China's wealth and status as a global financial colossus. And, of course, the nation's garnering of the most gold medals was viewed by the hosts as a demonstration of the superiority of the new Chicom system.

Prior to World War II, the sun never set on the British Empire and the pound was the world's reserve currency. The War bankrupted the island nation and the US assumed the role as the world's foremost superpower and the dollar became the world's reserve currency. What all the world has just witnessed is the start of the third leg of this superpower relay where the baton of power could be passed from the US to China.

Is the Renminbi the world's future reserve currency? Given our leaders propensity to weaken the dollar and burden our nation with debt this race could be a short contest.

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