Looking up at the sky tonight, I could see stars glittering. When I mentioned this to my neighbor, she remarked that the government must be thrilled, because stars are visible above Beijing about as often as the Olympics come to town. I told her that the local Chabad rabbi would probably appreciate the great weather, too. But as she had never heard of the “three stars rule” or Shabbat, I imagine it was lost in translation.
It’s been two weeks since the Olympics began, and Westerners here are getting rather fed up with noodles, dumplings and rice. Even the bread here can taste strange. For Jews, or anyone who has tasted a freshly baked New York bagel, the rumors of a bagel shop in Beijing circulated around hotel lobbies, tour buses and the Olympic Green have become somewhat of a fixation here. A few days ago, an article appeared on the New York Times website that sent those who could access the site here running to hail a cab, yelling “beigu,” 贝谷, the Chinese word for the holed-bread, which means “precious wheat.”
Hopefully, they’ll arrive at Mrs. Shanen’s, which is owned by a Bay Ridge-raised Chinese-American entrepreneur, Lejen Chen, who brought the recipe to China to remind herself of New York.
Mark Spitz has been questioned repeatedly over how he feels now that Michael Phelps has more medals than he does. Holding up the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, featuring a grinning Phelps wearing his eight gold medals around his neck — a re-creation of Spitz’s famous seven-gold-medal pose from 1972 — the elder champion smiled and commended the 2008 phenomenon. But he couldn’t resist giving a “competitive” answer when asked who he thought was the faster swimmer, saying:
“I think that the relationship between people that are great is they have a common thread of knowing how to beat their competitors and they know how to constantly be in shape and in top form,” Spitz told the Daily News. “If that’s the case, I’d know everything about how to beat Michael,” he said. “He’d also know everything to beat me. We’d have to tie.”
What must it have been like for Rami Zur today, the American-turned-Israeli-turned-US team kayaker, when he found himself eliminated from the Olympics after placing seventh in the men’s kayak single 1,000 meters race? Surely there was some despair and anger. But could there also have been a smile? A chuckle perhaps?
Zur, who was born in America and adopted as a baby by an Israeli family and grew up on a kibbutz near the Kinneret, probably felt a terrible sense of deja vu when history repeated itself this afternoon. Playing again for the US thanks to his dual citizenship, Zur was knocked out of the semifinals in the same events at the Athens Games four years ago, his second Olympics after competing for Israel in Sydney. But that’s where the Groundhog Day scenario ends.
Across Israel today, Jews of varying political stripes breathed a sigh of relief and even shed tears of joy. No, President Ehud Olmert didn’t step down yet. Something better.
Israeli windsurfer Shahar Zubari sailed to a bronze medal today after coming in second place in his last race of the 2008 Olympic games in Qingdao. It was Israel’s first medal of the Beijing games and its seventh of all time. Such a rare victory earned Zubari a congratulatory phone call from Olmert, according to Haaretz: