I’m a big fan of Play Magazine, the sports zine that the New York Times produces. Each one — sports cliche alert — is a home run. They just published a new issue, one devoted to the Olympics.

Among the features on Michael Phelps and Liu Xiang, is an erudite look at how Beijing has transformed itself to host the Games. From Tom Scocca:

… the Olympic preparations are like tidying your house in a hurry before company comes over. The clutter gets stuffed into cabinets or under the bed; you wipe down the bathroom the guests will be using; you hide the dirty dishes and dig out matching forks and cloth napkins. This is not the way you live every day.

Are you defrauding your guests? Or are you showing them how you would live, if things were different?

Visitors will be seeing a Beijing that has swept its vices and imperfections under the rug. Unlike every other subway system I’ve been to, gone are the hawkers, performers and beggars. Not one in sight. In fact, I’ve only seen one beggar in the subway station since I’ve been here. Each station is pristine, guarded by a cadre of security and volunteers.

This is the utopia China wants visitors to see: clean, orderly, well behaved, sophisticated, open.

Perhaps the real story won’t be how well China plays host to thousands of visitors, but what the country will become — or not become — long after the Games of the XXIX Olympiad have faded into history.

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