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Olympics: Almost perfect, but not quite 

As the Summer Olympics approach their halfway point, this seems like a good place to draw some early conclusions: good, bad, obvious and obscure.

By now, the massive opening ceremony has faded into the background, replaced (as always should be the case) by events and athletes. As stunning as the production was, it must have been much better in person. You couldn't find an outspoken naysayer among those who sat in National Stadium and wrote about their impressions. Most instantly crowned it as the best opening ceremony ever. And why not? China spent an unfathomable $330 million to make the most impact on its global audience.

Was that investment worthwhile? China would say yes, perhaps for a different reason than you'd think. The ceremony provided a final inspiration to Chinese athletes, who jumped out to a daunting early lead in the gold-medal race. As of Friday, China's 26-14 edge over the United States in golds probably means Team USA will have to settle for second in that category.

The overall medal race looks much closer, especially with Americans likely to show their depth on the track as they have in swimming.

But now we're also hearing the opening show wasn't totally real. Some of the vocals were lip-synched. Oh, and some of the fireworks were "animated" or "reproduced" from an earlier rehearsal. So we saw and heard only what the Chinese wanted us to see and hear. Great.

Here are some assorted other thoughts, with many more stories to unfold between now and Aug. 24:

Best moment: Those who stayed up late Sunday night got to see the U.S. men swimmers' dramatic comeback to win the 400-meter freestyle relay. And the star wasn't Michael Phelps, who swam the leadoff leg before Jason Lezak's phenomenal finish.

Tragic moment: Obviously, the senseless fatal stabbing of Todd Bachman, father-in-law of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon and father of 2004 Olympian Elisabeth Bachman. We can criticize China all we want, but it did not deserve that black mark.

Biggest injustice: U.S. weightlifter Casey Burgener, an Olympic Training Center resident-athlete, qualified for the Games and went to Beijing, only to learn the world federation had removed his name from the list of competitors. The whole story smacks of corruption, with nations able to pay fines and have Olympic berths reinstated. Burgener never fails a test and loses his spot.

Best local angle: Katy Emmons winning the women's 10-meter air rifle gold medal. She's a shooter for the Czech Republic but a Colorado Springs resident because she's married to U.S. Olympian Matt Emmons.

Wondering: Given all the injuries to U.S. men and women gymnasts, why not schedule more sports' Olympic Trials earlier, perhaps even in May instead of June?

Bad form: NBC's seemingly desperate efforts to make viewers believe they're seeing events live, when they aren't. Most are taped-replays because Beijing is 14 hours ahead of Colorado Springs. So when it's 8 p.m. here, it's 10 a.m. the next day in China.

Overkill: All the coverage for every U.S. men's basketball game, even when it's clear the Americans will not be pushed until the medal round (Aug. 20-24).

Most demanding sport: You could make a case for water polo, with athletes swimming, treading water or being mauled by opponents for long periods with no break.

Worst view: Road-race cyclists, knowing they face grueling hours ahead, racing into Beijing's smog.

routon@csindy.com

Sports Shot

Fond farewell Best of luck to Norm Bazin, leaving as a Colorado College hockey assistant coach to become head coach at Division III Hamilton College in New York. Bazin has made a remarkable comeback from a near-fatal car crash on an icy road during a 2003 recruiting trip.

Wrong move You know the Rockies are desperate when they take a flier on aging pitcher Livan Hernandez, magnifying the front office's failure to shore up the rotation this season.

Staying home Colorado College football will have three local freshmen this fall: lineman Jason Toth (Widefield), kicker Tyler Brickell (Coronado) and tailback Luke Northam (Classical Academy).

Don't miss it Take a break from the Olympics to watch the Dallas Cowboys at Denver, 7 p.m., Saturday, August 16, on Channel 11 (picking up the Denver telecast).

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