• U.S.

The Global Games

2 minute read
Richard Stengel

When Dara Torres, now 41, first set the world record for the 50-m freestyle in 1983, LeBron James hadn’t even been born. The arc of athletic celebrity has changed. You can be a star at 15 and again at 41. Torres’ remarkable swimming comeback and James’ single-minded determination to bring back the gold medal in basketball are so compelling, yet so different, that we decided to do two TIME covers to show the breadth of our Olympic preview, which begins on page 44. And as evidence of our global reach, TIME’s Asian-edition cover features Chinese athlete Liu Xiang, who four years ago became China’s first male ever to win track-and-field gold and now is a vessel of 1.3 billion Chinese people’s hopes. The three are joined by 97 other athletes, including some familiar names like Michael Phelps and many others that you’ll learn. Twenty-nine TIME reporters from around the world contributed capsule profiles of these athletes. Torres’ extraordinary story of midlife in the fast lane is captured by our own Alice Park, who is headed to Beijing for her fifth Olympics. James’ intensity and his promise that he will bring back a gold–“It’s the gold or it’s failure,” he says–are portrayed by writer Sean Gregory, who played basketball for Princeton and engaged in a matching-shot game called P-I-G with the 23-year-old star. “Every time I hit,” says Gregory, “he got this serious look on his face and matched me. Then he beat me.” The package’s gold-medal-quality design was done by Cynthia Hoffman and Patricia Hwang.

Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR

More Olympic Coverage For expanded profiles of our 100 athletes, a video interview with LeBron James and dispatches from Beijing during the Olympics, go to time.com/olympics

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