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Blue skies? Nuthin' but blue skies.

Posted by John Powers, Globe Staff  August 15, 2008 04:28 AM

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When I drew open my curtains this morning, I was stunned by what I saw. An authentic blue sky, for the first time in the three weeks that I've spent in Beijing over the last year. Not what the locals consider a `blue' sky, which means something just this side of pallid. It was a real azure dome, with wispy white clouds and a sun which for once didn't look like a smudged orange.

Every day since I've arrived in what they call `Greyjing' there's either been a ceiling-to-floor curtain with smothering heat and humidity or rain weeping down for hours. I've never seen what we take for granted in Boston during the summer -- abundant sunshine with a bit of a breeze. After a few days, I wondered whether I should even bother looking out the window.

Today, I was blinded by the light and the unusual clarity of the air. I saw buildings on the other side of the Olympic Green that I never knew were there. Mind you, it wasn't the Athenian blue sky that we were used to four years ago, but it was as close to one as they get around here. So I had to change my plans for the day.

I checked out the bus schedule for beach volleyball, found my flip-flops and shades (which had been gathering dust inside my official Olympic rucksack) and figured on going to check out the Brazilian women, which, after all, is the whole reason why they invented the game. It's the only sport where dental floss qualifies as a uniform and the girls from Ipanema wear it better than anybody.

In Athens, where the venue was right on the water, you could wander down to beach volleyball anytime you wanted to, assured of seeing a balmy breeze blowing the stars around above the Aegean. In Mao's town, when the sky is blue, you run outdoors and stay there until dark. It's as rare as seeing a Norwegian win in platform diving.

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