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Opening Night With Yao Ming's Parents

I Witnessed the Opening Ceremony at a VIP Party -- and at Street Level

By Published on .

Kevin Tressler
Kevin Tressler
Parents around the world are united in a desire to help their children succeed and live in a better world. Chinese parents are no different, as I discovered last Friday evening. I had the rare privilege of meeting Yao Ming's parents and Liu Xiang's father at a reception held just before the opening ceremonies.

Inside China, basketball player Yao Ming and track-and-field champion Liu Xiang are the best-known local athletes competing in the Olympics. Despite the fame and fortunes of these competitors, their parents are graceful and modest. They talked about their "humble confidence" in their sons. They also spoke about nurturing them from childhood to be the best they can be in every way, not just in sports. They were delighted China now has the opportunity to host the games so their sons can shine in their home country in front of their own people.
Kevin Tressler (center) with Yao Ming's parents
Kevin Tressler (center) with Yao Ming's parents
Yao's parents stood out in another way -- they are so tall! I pride myself as having above-average height, but I felt like quite a midget in front of them. The encounter was even worse than a shoot I attended for a Coca-Cola commercial starring Yao Ming and LeBron James earlier this year. When Yao put his hand on my shoulder, I realized the height difference is the same as when I put my hand on the shoulder of my little girl Rhea, who is 7!

Later that night, I had an interesting taxi experience that reminded me of P.T. Black's comments in his blog on Aug. 8, The Calm Before the Storm. The experience started with the same frustrations noted by P.T., like the difficulties finding a taxi in Beijing these days and language problems, since I don't speak Chinese.

I decided to leave the opening ceremony early, because I knew getting out of the stadium after the ceremony ended would be quite a hassle. I had not bargained on the amount of walking I would have to do because all the roads were blocked. Finally, I reached an alley where I found a group of taxis -- but no drivers! As I got closer, I realized the drivers were all huddled around a 14-inch TV in a hardware store.
Liu Xiang's father
Liu Xiang's father

After a fair amount of broken English conversation and communication through hand gestures, it became clear they weren't going anywhere. But they did invite me to join them to watch the end of the ceremony. Watching their excited faces and listening to them literally scream at each other brought a smile to my face. I decided to hang out with these guys and gave each of them a Coke pin. Our Olympic pins have become quite a big deal in China, so they were delighted.

After about 20 minutes with this group, I started to chat -- more through hand gestures than words -- to one of the older fellas and he finally relented and agreed to take me back to my hotel. The taxi was like a nightclub because of the loud commentary on the radio. Every once in a while, the driver turned his head back and provided his own expert take on the events on the radio. Of course I couldn't understand him, but he kept me smiling.

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