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As you read to this final diary report from Beijing I am making my way across China after an exhausting but exhilarating Olympic experience.
These games have become more than just another gathering place for top athletes to prove their worthiness to represent their countries. They have given the rest of the world a rare look behind the wall that up until a few years ago would not have been possible.
The curiosity is obvious with each click of the Nielson ratings on NBC. And for those that were lucky enough to be here and witness it firsthand, it has forever erased what we thought we knew about this country and its people.
I tried to stay up with the view from the rest of world online each day and was worried that while major western media was focused on lip-synching little girls, computer generated fireworks, air quality and the age of Chinese gymnasts, the bigger story was being missed here, that this country and its government had opened its doors and hearts to the rest of the world like never before.
That the progress made since the games were awarded to China seven years ago might be overlooked. Expanding freedoms and shared land to benefit the individual and the collective. Billions of dollars spent on infrastructure and beautification to enhance the lives of its citizens. Major investments [were made] in cleaner forms of energy and transportation moving breathable air quality back to world health standards and a booming economy with double-digit growth year after year.
A Harvard professor specializing in China says never before in the history of Earth has a country moved so many people out of poverty is such a short period of time. In the next decade it's expected that over 60 percent of the population will live in metropolitan areas.
As for the notion that most Chinese would pack their bags and move to the U.S. today if given the chance; I didn't find a one. Love for their country and optimism for their future has them firmly planted here at home. A Pew Research study conducted here showed nearly 90 percent of those polled were thrilled with their countries direction and optimistic about its future. Compare some of those same numbers in the U.S. these days.
I said before coming here, and still believe, that the Salt Lake Games in 2002, because of its people, were the best Winter Games ever and I expected that the these games would be the best ever Summer Games for the same reason.
The Chinese are, without a doubt, some of the most loving, caring people I've been around and welcome strangers into their hearts and homes easily.
I wish that more of you could see China the way I have been able to with almost two months of working side by side with their next generation.
It's always a delicate subject when talking about China to bring up politics, but hopefully we can put politics aside. And rather than stage protests for one cause or another, which have never proven to change anything except the headlines for a day or two, let these Olympic Games turn that great wall into a great bridge; a bridge that will continue to move this country at light speed into the future for the good of its people and the rest of the world.
When you see what has been accomplished in the last decade, who knows what the future may bring?