By Kathy Kemper – 01/21/09 05:04 AM ET
Barack Obama’s Inauguration parallels China’s Olympics in a lot of ways.
Obama’s Inauguration was the most expensive in American history ($150 million). The Beijing Games were the most expensive in Olympic history ($43 billion).
No Inauguration has ever had such high security — all bridges crossing the Potomac River into D.C. were closed off and 3.5 square miles of downtown were closed. No Games have ever had such high security — Beijing deployed 1 million video cameras and 100,000 anti-terrorism volunteers to quell potential unrest.
An unprecedented 60,000 people applied to volunteer at Obama’s Inauguration. An unprecedented 2+ million people applied to volunteer at the Beijing Games.
Obama’s speech was the most watched Inauguration address in American history (200+ million American viewers); the Beijing Games were the most watched Games in Olympic history (4+ billion viewers around the world).
I could go on and on.
The main point is this: It’s not a coincidence that Obama’s Inauguration and the Beijing Games are parallel in so many ways. The former marks a “new” America in which a black man can be elected to the most powerful position of leadership that there is. The latter marks a “new” China that has emerged from its past as an isolated appendage of the Soviets and is now a proud power in the world.
President Obama has a full agenda on his plate, but there are few issues that are going to be more important than the Sino-American relationship, especially in light of the global financial crisis.
Now that the Inauguration is over, the world will look to Obama to restore American leadership. Now that the Games are over, the world will look to Beijing to offer leadership on global challenges. Obama has enjoyed his time in the limelight, as has Beijing. Now it’s time for them to get to work.