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Archive for December 11, 2006

Dec. 11, 2006 — A lunch date with history

Today, I had lunch in a restaurant on the first floor of a hotel located right along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

The place: The Watergate Hotel.

For a generation of Americans, the word “Watergate” opens up memories of a period of history between 1971 and 1974 in which the power of the Presidency was used for domestic spying and abuse of authority.

What the whole scandal and the threads of the story have obfuscated is the fact that the Watergate is still functioning today as a hotel with retail space and a restaurant. At first glance, it is an inelegant complex of dirty concrete and glass, and looks like a 1970s-era woodcut from an aerial view.

But as was explained to us by members of the staff, the meeting rooms on the upper floors are designed that they all have a view of either the river, the white-marble Kennedy Center, or the bustle and buildings of Georgetown.

We were on the ground floor, and still got an excellent window seat to see the joggers on the opposite bank as the midday sun shimmered across the water.

Presently, the managers of the hotel are involved in litigation, trying to convert the apartments into high-priced condominiums. But you wouldn’t know that from the disposition of the staff. Nor would you know that it was the site of one of the greatest threats to our Constitution in the 20th Century.

Dec. 10, 2006 — Meanwhile, in Qatar …

The first of the continental qualification tournaments for the 2008 Olympics is nearing a close at the Asian Games in Doha.

And the final for the women’s tournament pits China against Japan. China, being the host nation of the Olympics, was guaranteed a berth before ever entering the Asia Games. Japan, which had a win and a draw against the United States in World Cup 2006, has therefore already guaranteed itself a trip to China.

Meanwhile, the American team — which is anywhere from 1/2 a goal to a whole goal worse than Japan — needs to win either one of two tournaments outright beginning next year. Those tournaments are a Pan American Games in Brazil or an Olympic qualifying tournament which, it has already been determined, will not be in the United States.

It hardly seems fair, doesn’t it?

Get used to it; six-nation winner-take-all qualifiers are going to be used for not only qualification for the Beijing 2008, but the 2010 World Cup and London 2012.