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At the Games, it's time to disco

Michael Phelps has been the cynosure of all eyes at the Olympics, reports Indraneel Das.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2008 01:33 IST
Indraneel Das

DRAGONS HAVE fascinated me since childhood. I knew China for its fire-spitting dragons and kung fu fighters, some monkish in a 36th Chamber of Shaolin way, others eccentric drunks. But the last two weeks my movement has been restricted to the Olympic venues. No trace of dragons there. But a visit to a nightclub on Sunday offered me a chance to see their murals and motifs at least.

It was an upmarket club called Coca Banana. It was packed, with patrons gyrating to English music. If I entertained the idea of detaching myself from anything associated with the Olympics, I was mistaken. The motif of the décor was the Olympics.

Some of the guests were athletes and officials. Seeing the accreditation card dangling around their necks I asked them where they were from? "Korea," a swimmer said. "I know Michael Phelps," declared another.

Tiananmen Square

It's not a square after all. It's more of a rectangular piece of history.

After Coca Banana, I went to one of the most famous places in the world in the morning - the Tiananmen Square where murals of dragons and Buddhist architecture made my heart miss a few beats.

They stood serene and muted. Thousands gathered within the precinct to witness the symbol of Chinese power. More muted were the guards who stood in attention for hours - only their heads made sideways movements.

Keats' rhyme came to my mind:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,/Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,/Sylvan historian, who canst thus express/A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme

Holyfield in the hall

He was not fighting. For once he was a spectator. Evander Holyfield entered the Workers' Stadium just before the quarterfinals of the bantamweight category was about to start. He quietly went to the athletes' section and sat there. Being Holyfield, with an ear history, it was not difficult for the organizers to recognize him. If Teofilo Stevenson was made to seat in the athletes' arena, the organizers for once made an exception. They requested him to seat in the VIP enclosure reserved for the Olympic family.

Mobbed by hundreds of fans, he politely declined to sign an autograph but obliged with photographs.

"He doesn't sign autographs," declared one of his associates. "But if you request he will agree to a picture."

Popov hails Phelps

Alexander Popov was at the Water Cube as an expert. I noticed his colossal presence and rushed to him. He was as witty as he was 10 years ago. One over-enthusiastic TV journalist tried to thrust the mobile in his face so that Popov was audible to his studio. Popov smiled and said in a Russian accent: "Will you put that up my mouth?"

About Phelps, he said: "He is the best. If you win so many gold medals, definitely he has something others don't have."