Changing China

Giant on the move

The invisible Mr Phelps

August 4, 2008

Phelps dries himself

The envelope, somewhat crumpled in the hands of a female admirer waiting excitedly in the Beijing airport arrivals hall, bore a simple message: “To Michael Phelps, you have to look at.”

Let’s face it, the chances of the American swimming celebrity ever looking at the contents were never going to be good.

But they became non-existent when the 23-year-old phenomenon slipped quietly into Beijing through the side door on Monday afternoon, sidestepping his admirers and the television cameras alike.

Maybe there were security considerations to the six times gold medallist being spirited away, maybe he just wanted to keep his focus as he bids to become the most successful Olympic athlete of all time.

But one can’t help but long for a bit more of a presence, if only for those local fans who had waited patiently for a glimpse of him.

Maybe he should have done what some of the other athletes did when faced with the waiting crowd – take out their own cameras and start snapping back. It captures the moment and sure beats the old footballers’ favourite of walking past with a mobile phone clamped to the ear.

PHOTO: Michael Phelps dries himself with a towel after practice at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, Beijing, August 4, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed

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