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How Should Total Team Score Be Measured?

What nation really "wins" the Olympics? Is it total gold medals? There, China leads, at the moment, 29 to 17 over the United States. Or is it total medals of any kind? There, America leads China, 59-52. Of course, these numbers change constantly. But you get the idea.

Neither method is satisfactory. Nobody (sane) thinks a bronze medal is as good as a gold medal. So you can't claim that total medals of any kind makes you No. 1. However, gold medals alone isn't entirely appealing, either, especially if another country has far more silvers and bronze.

So, why not do the obvious? Count a gold medal as three points, a silver as two points and a bronze as one point. I can't prove it, but I believe that's how most media kept score in the '50's, '60's and perhaps '70's.

By that method, as of Sunday evening in Beijing, China led with 123 poins to 112 for the U.S. So, a very dramatic "team" Olympics, viewed that way. At the moment, Australi would be third with 55 points, followed by Great Britain (!) 45, South Korea 43 (!!), Russia 40, France (!!!) 38, Japan (37) and Italy (33).

America's large superiority over China in track, balanced against China home-field advantage and strength in so-called minor sports, could make a very close finish at the tape by next Sunday's closing ceremonies.

Once you're in the Nest, everything is inward looking --_like insular China, you might say. There are no beautiful mountains in the distance, like Pasadena. Even from the top row, you can't see out into a larger world. Also, the concourses are pedestrian (rim shot).

As you walk around the stadium, you can't see out into the Beijing skyline and only catch glimpses of the exterior latice-work architecture that makes the place so exciting. Granted, if you want, you can walk a distance to an exterior concourse that encircles the Nest's lower deck and see servicable cityscapes and get the full effect of the criss-crossing beams. Simply to watch football, I'd take cozier Ravens Stadium in a heartbeat.

The Nest's most unique feature -- and it is so dazzling that it took me a while to believe what I was seeing -- is the 50-foot-high, wrap-around HD scoreboard that encircles the entire top of the stadium. It's vast, like taking 10 or more scoreboards the size of the one at Nationals Park and wrapping them around the top of FedEx Field!

At first, I simply thought that the Nest's roof was canted forward to protect the crowd from rain, like Texas Stadium with its famous hole in the ceiling. "Kind of ugly," I said, since all you could see above you has an oval of cement-gray polluted Beijing sky.

However, during the ceremonies, that 360-degree TV screen far above your head played amazing scenes. If there were 2,000 boat rowers on the stadium floor, then the whole scoreboard showed a raging ocean in all directions. And it served as a backdrop for the "flying" torchbearer who lit the Olympic flame. Greatest stadium gimmick ever.

But that gazillion-juan HD showpiece would serve no purpose for the simple replay needs of a football or soccer game. Our normal flat boards serve as well or better.

So, for an opening, there's never been a facility to match the Nest with its 287 fireworks guns on top or its LED display capacity -- half the size of a football field -- on the stadium floor. From the upper deck, you're looking down at an enormous TV!

But if I had to pick a mega-capacity stadium to watch NCAA or NFL football games for the rest of my life, it probably wouldn't be the Nest. From your seat, all that fancy rooftop HD would be irrelevant and you'd be sitting in a monochromatic boring testament to "equality." Better than homely FedEx? Okay, sure, many times better.

Well, unless you had a sky box!

By Thomas Boswell  |  August 9, 2008; 7:17 AM ET
Categories:  Opening Ceremonies  
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Next: First Judo Medals


What exactly do skyboxes and premium seating sections add to a stadium for the overwhelming majority who don't use them? I mean, I understand why big companies and wealthy folks like them, but it's not like they make the place more scenic or improve the sightlines for everyone else.

Posted by: Jon | August 9, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

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