Postcard from Beijing: A great Olympic day

San Francisco native and College of San Mateo sports information director Fred Baer is covering his ninth Olympic Games as a journalist and is providing The Examiner with a behind-the-scenes view of the Beijing Games.

How to start a great day during the Beijing Olympics: Climb the Great Wall, after taking an hour first class scenic ride on a train with panoramic windows. My daughter, Bridget Michelsen, and grandson, Ryan, joined me in scaling the steep stairs and slopes of this portion of the 5,000-kilometer long Wall. That provided a better workout then you will get at the gym. It’s also a good way to appreciate the 5,000-meter runners we’ll see running in prelims at the Bird’s Nest Stadium later in the day.  The weather cooperated — remained overcast. The best part, according to Ryan, was taking the “slider car” (a train of toboggans on a track) down from the wall.

How to end a great day: Watching Usain Bolt of Jamaica break the 200-meter record of 19.32 seconds, set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by my friend Michael Johnson, who now lives in Marin County. Bolt won in 19.30 — by an even greater margin than in that memorable race by Johnson. (I still relish placing a then “unknown” Johnson on his first national team in 1989 for the World University Games in Germany, when I was the USA team manager).

Happy birthday: Bolt celebrated his 22nd birthday with his gold medal press conference that started at just after midnight. He doesn’t want to be compared to Johnson — or to Michael Phelps. “A lot of people compare me to Michael Johnson,” Bolt said. “He was a great athlete. I just want to be me.”

Upcoming tonight: San Francisco’s Shannon Rowbury, America’s fastest women’s 1,500-meter runner in six years, finally gets on the track — for the semifinals, since a first round was not needed.

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