The Gold Standard

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Editor's Note: Jodi Noffsinger, an American living in Beijing, is filing regular updates on the scene at the Olympics in The Beijing Blonde column on

Gold. It's all you hear about in the local TV broadcast of the Olympic games. And not surprising, because China is leading the gold medal count with 35 as Sunday's events come to a close.

Every country wants to win gold, but for China this is not only a matter of national pride. It's about their standing in the world. After all, gold was the imperial color. Not only do the Chinese hope this will be the biggest and best Olympics with their flashy new stadiums and armies of volunteers, they want to win it all. You can see the intensity of this quest for gold in many of the Chinese athletes' faces.

Watching the China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast, there's even a regular crawl running at the bottom of the screen with the medal count for the top five countries touting their number one standing. While back in the U.S., Americans may be celebrating their No. 1 standing on the overall medal count, but here in China, it's only gold that matters.

And because the Chinese love gold, they also love Michael Phelps, even if he is a rival. Before the Olympics, NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Lebron James were probably some of America's most well-known sports stars in China, but if you ask any Chinese who America's top athlete is now, they're likely to tell you it's Phelps.

As I watched Phelps win his eighth gold medal today on CCTV, I was pleased to see so much coverage of the historic moment. For days, I've been watching the games and most of the coverage has been of the Chinese and in Chinese (understandably so since I'm watching in China).

But today, they dedicated a good portion of the main CCTV broadcast to Phelps (whose name interestingly is pronounced with four syllables instead of one in Chinese). CCTV aired the entire medal ceremony and followed Phelps as he walked over to kiss his mother and sisters and pose for photos. The commentators talked for quite some time about his accomplishment and what a remarkable athlete he is. It was clear they have true admiration for the swimmer.

Plus, they're quite proud that he set this gold medal record here, since this amazing feat will always be remembered as happening at the 2008 Beijing Games. Eight medals in '08, could it be any more auspicious for China with that lucky number?

While CCTV may have taken a break from their all-China, all-the-time coverage of the games with Phelps, they will soon be back to China's athletes showing yet another gold medal ceremony.

China may be known for its exports, but there's definitely one thing they won't be sending anywhere else anytime soon — gold medals.