The Beijing Olympics opening ceremony began at 8:08 a.m., on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008. The exact time was picked by organizers because of the meaning of the number eight to the Chinese. It represents luck, prosperity and wealth. It was an appropriate number, apparently, as the opening ceremony and the Olympics in general have painted a picture of the new China: increasingly prosperous, powerful, harmonious and open.
Forty years ago at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in protest against racism and injustice. Students at San Jose State University, Smith won the gold medal and Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200-meter race. As the American flag rose and the National Anthem played, the two sprinters bowed their heads, closed their eyes and raised their fists.