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Aug. 17: Different reactions to Phelps' feat

2/10/2011

From ESPN.com senior writer Elizabeth Merrill:

Ten years from now, maybe young people will ask, "Where were you when Michael Phelps broke the record?"

Seven thousand miles from Beijing, it appears, was the place to be. One block from the Water Cube, the spot where history was all unfolding, was not.

As Phelps splashed into history late Sunday morning in Beijing, life here at the center of the Olympics was oddly mundane. Policemen kept their stone-faced stares; families mugged for pictures in front of the Bird's Nest. High atop a massive video board on a skyscraper, at 11:10 a.m., Phelps was nowhere to be found. The board played China's gold-medal triumphs over and over.

But halfway around the world, under darkness and blinking lights, it was much different. At roughly 11:10 p.m. ET, Times Square erupted. Hundreds packed four corners to stare up at Phelps on the giant screen. They cheered when the Americans hit the wall with hope; they booed when the Yanks fell behind.

"Before the race," ESPN.com senior editor Kellie Kenney said from her cell phone in New York, "people stopped, saying, 'Has Phelps swam yet?'"

Back in Beijing, about the only sign of Phelps near the Bird's Nest was at the Omega building. A smattering of Chinese fans stopped at the front, which is adorned by a giant image of the American. They took pictures of the massive poster and quietly left.