The number eight is considered auspicious in China. Indeed, in Chinese the word for “eight” sounds a lot like the word for “prosper” or “wealth.” And so, the summer Olympics in Beijing will begin on August 8, 2008, at precisely 8:08:08 pm.
Whether such numerology will help the home team is debatable. Yet, it should certainly not be quickly discounted; in Olympic competition, the margin between winners and losers is often so slim that even superstition is a factor. And so, rebounding this spring from impressive sporting victories in hockey, soccer and tennis (see Sports News, page 15), Russian athletes have every reason to knock wood, spit thrice and don lucky socks. After all, glory is fleeting and good fortune does not last forever.
That said, Vyacheslav Fetisov – three time Stanley Cup winner, two time Olympic gold medalist, and current head of the Federal Agency for Sport and Physical Culture – is optimistic. The 2008 Olympics, he said, will be an unprecedented trial for Russian sport. This is the first Olympic games when almost none of the Russian athletes were trained by the old Soviet system. And, unlike athletes in the chaotic 1990s, who were battered about by uncertainty (finally competing as a “Unified Team” in Barcelona in 1992), these competitors are well prepared.
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