Walcoff: Despite hiccups, Olympics have been a smash hit

So they faked some of the fireworks at the opening ceremony, had a 9-year-old lip-synch “Ode to the Motherland” because the real 7-year-old singer wasn’t cute enough and told volunteers to be official cheerleaders and sit in the empty seats that were all too plentiful in the preliminary events — the Beijing Olympics have been a blast.

Sure, the smiling TV faces reporting from Tiananmen Square made me squirm, and the fluff pieces on China’s soaring technological prowess and caring cab drivers learning English conspicuously ignored their horrific human-rights record, undrinkable water and unbreathable air, but if the Olympics are all about taking a break from politics and allowing athletic competition to take center stage: Give the hosts high marks, and thanks to the incomparable Michael Phelps, these Summer Games have truly wowed the world. 

Of course, things could get a little dicey when the track and field competition begins on Friday. Searing heat and humidity mixed with heavy smog could be a formula for disaster, especially for distance runners.

Fascinating scene at AT&T Park  Saturday night when Barry Bonds made his first visit back to San Francisco since last year’s contentious divorce from the Giants. Just as the exiled home run king paused in the middle of his conciliatory speech, a Dodgers fan sitting near me behind the visitor’s dugout broke the silence with a huge boo which appeared to catch Bonds off guard.

Without missing a beat he snapped, “I beat you before, I’ll beat you again … I’m not retired.” Considering the Giants’ miserable season, Bonds’ desperate desire to play (he’s only four RBIs shy of 2,000 and 65 hits short of 3,000) and the lovey-dovey hugs he got from Peter Magowan, why wouldn’t the outgoing team president let Barry have a final, friendlier farewell in The City? He’ll play for next to nothing, fill the ballpark again and maybe his newfound leaner, lighter look means he’ll be a kinder-gentler teammate.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Speaking of worst, the 49ers’ quarterback shuffle continues to confound and confuse.

Mike Nolan says it’s still an open competition, but Shaun Hill didn’t take a single snap in 11-on-11 drills for three straight days this week, Alex Smith has not worked with the first unit in over a week and J.T. O’Sullivan who struggled mightily against the Raiders on Friday appears to be the front-runner to start Saturday’s preseason home opener against the Packers. O’Sullivan and Hill are both journeyman with spotty NFL resumes, at best. Isn’t it about time that the 49ers learn once and for all if Smith is the answer?

The former No. 1 overall pick is working with his fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons and showed more maturity in dealing with a debilitating shoulder injury last year than his head coach. Two years ago, when healthy, Alex almost led the Niners to the playoffs.

He should get the first shot at trying to improve upon that this season.

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the “KGO Morning News.” He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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