Traditionally, the most spectacular sound in sports is the utter silence of 80,000 people in a stadium the instant before the gun goes at the men's Olympic 100-meter final. There will be, however, a small modification for the 2008 Olympics.
In Beijing, the library quiet will be most profound before the start of the 110-meter hurdles, a race that has temporarily supplanted the 100 as the centerpiece of what -- despite track and field's doping scandals -- remains the backbone of the Games:
In the 112 years since
But apparently there is a shelf life on glory in China. Liu's coach was quoted in
In other words, 1.3 billion Chinese actually will give a damn. When Liu settles into the blocks, waiting for the gun, he can think about carrying the weight of the nation as he strides over the 10, 3½-foot hurdles. Don't stumble.
Robles is playing with house money -- or whatever it is Cuba uses to reward its medal winners. The 21-year-old broke Liu's world record by one-hundredth of a second, blistering a 12.87 in a meet in June in the Czech Republic. Now the Cuban insists Liu remains the Olympic (and home nation) favorite, throwing a few extra ounces of burden on his rival.
Liu, who split four races against Robles last year, false-started his way out of the Prefontaine meet this spring and wound up scratching from the New York Grand Prix because of a sore hamstring. This is never good.
China's currency is the Yuan, but it has adopted the gold standard this summer. China is counting on beating the U.S., Russia and any other pretenders to the top step of the podium, a feat that would represent national affirmation more than mere national pride.