In 1973, we joked about what kinds of exquisite torture the Chinese might have thought up to inflict on Vince Lombardi before they executed him for his winning-is-everything philosophy. Now, in these revisionist times, it's not difficult to imagine Lombardi's jack-o'-lantern grin stretched approvingly on an immense billboard on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
This baffling turn of events fits right in with the endless social and political turbulence that has tumbled China so madly through the 20th century. In these past 15 years the lid has been torn off the cheerless world that Mao made. Where the great rivers of uniformly clad cyclists rolling along city streets were as drab as mud 15 years ago, now the streams are alive with girls in bright summer dresses and men wearing neckties. Life is full of change, full of wonder, full of promise. And what of the next 15 years? In 1984, China went to the Olympics in Los Angeles for the first time since 1952. I predict that 15 years from now Beijing will be putting the finishing touches on a whole grand landscape of gleaming sports facilities as it gets ready to host the XXVIII Summer Olympics of 2004. I predict that the Beijing Games will be a thundering success. I also predict that it won't occur to any of the thousands of foreign spectators who attend those Olympics that they must get a shortwave radio before they go to China.