Meet Sideshow Beijing, and try not to stare |

Meet Sideshow Beijing, and try not to stare

Devon O'Neil
Vail, CO Colorado
Devon O'Neil

I never miss the Super Bowl ” shape my autumn nights around the World Series, get up extra early for the Tour de France, and used to skip work for March Madness.

But none of those events comes close to the Olympics.

This is true even with the games themselves being threatened by a new, altogether wacky set of storylines, hereafter collectively known as Sideshow Beijing.

In the lead-up to the Athens Games in 2004, threats of terrorism swirled like mosquitoes in a swamp. And yet, for the most part, we remember only the winners and the losers (and the dopers) from that Olympics; in other words, facts related to the actual competition.

We will find out in the weeks to come whether the same can be said of the 2008 Summer Games many years from now. Until then, we are left to take stock of the interpreted absurdity that is Sideshow Beijing.

“FREE” SPEECH, Part 1: Anyone wanting to protest or speak out during the games must apply at least five days in advance and then stage their protest at one of three designated parks in the capital, so as not to disrupt “national interests,” according to an AP story.

“FREE” SPEECH, Part 2: China plans to censor Internet media coverage of the games. I am not sure how they will carry this out, other than to have their people read all coverage and then rescind the credentials of any who portray the games or the nation in a negative light.

GO AHEAD, BREATHE: Apparently Beijing’s air quality ” which has been so horrific that the world’s No. 1 marathoner refused to enter the Olympic 26.2-miler due to health concerns ” is now “vastly improved,” thanks to last-ditch measures that have included pulling 1.6 million vehicles off the roads, ceasing most construction and shutting down a boatload of factories in and near the city.

If you ask me, that’s kind of like emptying a can of Febreze in the airplane lavatory after puffing a cigar for 15 minutes. But in the context of the 2008 Olympics, it’s par for the course. …

On a related note, the Beijing Games are going to be the first in Olympic history to sell out. But it’s not the cash-hawking operation you might suspect; 58 percent of the 6.8 million tickets made available in domestic and foreign sales were offered at costs of $12.90 or less, so as to make the games available to the average Chinese. (Applause.)

The most expensive tickets are for Friday night’s opening ceremony, costing $645 apiece. …

Forgotten amid the frenzy that followed Manny Ramirez’s trade to Los Angeles is the fact that the Dodgers had already paid a fortune for a player of Manny’s caliber last winter. His name is Andruw Jones, and he had hit 368 homers in his 11-year career before this season.

Somehow, though, Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner at age 31, has morphed into one of the game’s worst players since he signed. He put on 30 pounds of blubber and has hit only two dingers this year in 199 at-bats, while compiling a .161 batting average. He is currently being paid $14.7 million to back up L.A.’s other outfielders. …

Here’s the lasting fallout from the Brett Favre soap opera, in the wake of Favre’s Monday return to the Packers and the team’s reported decision to allow him to compete with Aaron Rodgers for the starting quarterback position.

When Rodgers’ contract runs out next year, I don’t think there’s any chance he re-signs with Green Bay, no matter what they tell him his role will be. All of which means Green Bay will have wasted four years and millions of dollars grooming someone else’s future (Pro Bowl?) quarterback. …

In parting, it was reported Sunday night that as many as 11 climbers are dead after a massive icefall on the highest reaches of Pakistan’s 28,253-foot K2 snapped a number of fixed ropes necessary to navigate the perilous descent from the summit ” which sits atop a 2,000-foot pyramid of rock with an average slope of 40 degrees.

If these reports prove accurate, it would go down as one of the deadliest days in the history of climbing. More pertinent, it should serve to remind us that although a plodding, difficult-to-relate experience, big-wall mountaineering remains the riskiest sport on the planet.

Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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