Part of the Western world's ambition for this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing is the continued opening of a once isolationist nation. For evangelicals, that means importing Bibles-lots of Bibles. Last month, the British Bible Society announced plans to distribute tens of thousands of English and Chinese Bibles to athletes in the Olympic village, an initiative with approval from the Beijing Olympic organizing committee.
The Bible Society has ordered the printing of 50,000 booklets with the four Gospel accounts in English and Chinese, 30,000 English-Chinese New Testaments, and 10,000 complete Bibles in both languages. The Gospel booklets are to bear the organizing committee's official logo, a sign of unprecedented support from the communist government.
Indeed, such free dissemination of Scripture represents a marked break from past policies, which required that Bibles be distributed only through state-sanctioned churches. China-based Amity Printing Company has published tens of millions of Bibles for domestic use over the past two decades, but its primary customer has always been the China Christian Council, which oversees the state's registered and highly controlled Protestant congregations.
James Catford, chief executive of the Bible Society, called the opening of the Olympic village "a unique opportunity to make the life-changing message of the Bible available to thousands of athletes and visitors from all over China-and all over the world." About 16,000 athletes and officials will populate the Olympic Village this August, a number that suggests much of the Bible Society's literature will reach civilian hands.
But such a breakthrough in openness at the Olympic Games will not necessarily translate to increased religious freedom outside the watch of the global eye. Organizations like China Aid and Christian Solidarity Worldwide continue to report persecution against unsanctioned house churches and their leaders, victims that might well benefit from Christian athletes speaking out.
Over the course of the WNBA's first 11-plus seasons of existence, fans could count the number of dunks in the women's professional game on one finger. No more. L.A. Sparks forward Candace Parker threw down two rim rattlers in consecutive contests last month, pushing the league's total to three.
That achievement prompted Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird to remark optimistically that perhaps "it'll make other people shut up about how the women's game isn't above the rim."
Of course, the women's game is not above the rim-three dunks in a dozen years notwithstanding. Why should Bird care to pretend that it is? In four years as a WNBA beat reporter, I often encountered similar attitudes about the advancement of women's basketball-namely, that the game deserves equal regard as that of the NBA product. Such dissatisfaction flows from the idea that any disparity in popular appeal between men's and women's sports stems from societal sexism. But in reality, dunks simply play better as nightly feats than as novelty acts.
A tour without Tiger
Season-ending knee surgery for golf superstar Tiger Woods has many analysts projecting doom and gloom for a PGA Tour buoyed by its best player's popularity. Indeed, television ratings for golf events in 2007 were 58 percent higher for tournaments in which Woods played into the weekend. And over the past five years, his 54 top five finishes have drawn final-round ratings almost 30 percent higher than the 34 tournaments in which he fell from contention.