Greetings from SharePoint Pro in Beijing

Greetings from Beijing

Greetings all, from Beijing! It's been a crazy couple of weeks in my life and work, wrapping up a three-week journey through China and beginning work at what is an incredibly exciting and challenging event—the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. As you might imagine, SharePoint has played a big part in our preparations for the broadcast, which begins later this week on NBC. We developed several important applications on SharePoint—applications that support our operations here in areas including transportation management, production, and even in the workflow that results in the broadcast of events over the multiple Internet channels we will be feeding. You can read the details about some of these applications in the August Windows IT Pro article "Gold Medal SharePoint Applications in Beijing".

One of the characteristics of an effort as big as the Olympics broadcast is constant change. When several thousand people converge to achieve a goal, there are always unanticipated needs that arise. As we found at the Torino Olympics, SharePoint has been instrumental in our ability to meet those needs. I'm so grateful to have a tool that I, a non-developer, can use to deliver solutions in minutes or hours. In the next few weeks’ issues, I’ll be challenging you to make forays into some of these areas so, if you have not done so already, prepare to experiment with SharePoint Designer workflows, for moving important flat databases online, and for front-ending applications with Microsoft Office Access.

But because some of my colleagues have done a great job discussing technical issues related to SharePoint over the last few weeks while I’ve been out-of-pocket, I’d like to spend a moment sharing some thoughts from my perspective in Beijing. I came to China knowing little about the country and its people. I studied China in passing in several courses during my education, but in all reality I knew pretty much only what I absorbed from the media and other such sources of information in the United States. I knew very, very little. So I came to China with few expectations—I knew only that it would be an adventure.

What a glorious experience it has been. The Chinese people are, on the whole, the most friendly, enthusiastic, and welcoming people I’ve met in my travels, and they are so very proud to be welcoming the world to their home this summer. China has, over the last 50 years but certainly over the last 20, undergone change that my country took well over a century to undergo. My new friends here who are in their 30s tell me stories about their childhood years that are radically different from the lives they live now. This change has brought incredible opportunities and challenges to the country, and China is enormously excited for the opportunity to enter the world stage in a very big way this week and next. It is thrilling for me, as a lover of humanity, to see an entire nation “busting its buttons” with genuine joy and heartfelt hospitality, and with a level of integrity and involvement that boggles my mind.

This is so different from the expectations with which I came to this country. What I thought I might find here is not the vibrant city, the blistering pace of change, and the warm outreach that I’ve found. I am not about to say that China doesn’t have major issues to tackle—it definitely does—but the biggest issues are, I think, quite different than the ones that make the headlines in the United States. And of those issues that make the headlines, they are very real to be sure, but they are but a small facet of an incredibly complex social, economic, and political powerhouse. And even with that, I think it unwise for any citizen of an imperfect nation to cast the first stone at another.

I wanted to share this with you, because I fear that in its search for sensationalism, the media of the world is missing the real stories here at the Olympics—stories of a billion people waiting with baited breath for a torch to light the way toward a brighter future; stories of youth entering a world unimaginable by their parents, let alone their grandparents; stories of athletes from nations other than ‘mine’ who overcame incredible odds just to represent their countries at the Games; stories of an entire city transforming from caterpillar to butterfly; and the story of a nation with a complex and tumultuous history of interaction with the outside world making a very real and very big step toward engaging with its peers on the global stage—an opportunity we must seize with open arms if we hope to walk together toward those aims to which we all aspire.

I know the Olympics can seem like an over-commercialized endeavor when you watch them on TV, but they are very real, and very genuine here. Search out those stories that dig deeper into the meaning of the Olympics for the athletes, the spectators, the participating nations, and the host country. And please, do yourself a favor and watch the Opening Ceremonies on August 8. They are the most spectacular ceremony that the world has ever seen—you will be left breathless with the exquisite and extraordinary representations of China’s history and its rich culture, and of the theme of these Olympics: One World. One Dream. There are so few opportunities for the world to come together in harmony… to share. This is one of them. And isn’t that the point?

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