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Does music give Phelps an unfair advantage?

To Kevin, et al.:

Subject: You probably won’t believe this

I’m going to present our guest post today without comment, and Kevin, if you feel like opining, feel free.

Dr. Alexei Koudinov is the editor of the Israel-based Doping Journal Web site. When he sees Michael Phelps race, he sees a cheater. I asked him to explain why and he shared the essay you'll find below. He titled it, "Doping by the pool invalidates Phelps Beijing 2008 Olympic swimming gold, world records."


Did you notice that Michael Phelps wears earphones and is listening music just before his every Olympic start, at Beijing’s Olympiad Water Cube pool deck, be it finals or semifinals? I first noticed that before his first gold swim on August 10: Phelps removed earphones 2 minutes before the start, and he was the only swimmer who worn earphones at the pool deck. Intriguing scientific evidence testifies: Listening to music improves blood oxygen capacity and is a performance enhancement.

There could be several mechanisms, says Stefan Koelsch of Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in Leipzig, Germany, who has published 40 articles on the subject of how the body reacts to music. Dr. Koelsch says that "music can have influences on the breathing rate (e.g. via emotional effects such an increased arousal) which will alter oxygen levels in the blood, or relaxing effects (so that fewer muscles consume oxygen, which also increases oxygen levels)." He says that his group "has reported clear changes in breathing rate on a conference last year, with breathing rate being higher during pleasant music." In line with Koelsch conclusion are the data of the research article by Luciano Bernardi group of the University of Pavia, Italy, implying that the withdrawal of music shortly before the swim race induces relaxing effects noted by Koelsch.

Evidence comes from the research done with human infants. It showed that music causes better saturation of hemoglobin with oxygen (a so-called SPO(2) parameter, compared with control subjects receiving no music, indicating an "enhancement of oxygen transfer") and that increased by music, oxygen saturation returns to the baseline faster compared with control, making it hard to detect the transient oxygen saturation shortly thereafter. While Koelsch preferred his own explanation on how music can improve body oxygen capacity, Dr. Alexander Cherniak, a researcher at the Chuchalin Pulmonology Institute of Moscow, Russia agrees that medical experimentation with infants allows good standardization of the research protocol, appropriate statistics and could be projected onto the adults.

So what? Can one call listening to music shortly before entering the swimming pool for competition a performance enhancement? Yes, say both Koelsch and Cherniak. If so, how long could this enhancement last? "Duration [of the effect is] not certain, from seconds to minutes," adds Koelsch. Beijing Olympic and world records by Phelps fall into the expert’s projected time frame. Yes, testifies Dr. Vance Bergeron, of Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon, Laboratoire de Physique in Lyon, France: "[M]usic next to the swimming pool, less than 2 minutes before the start could indicate performance enhancement because of transient increase of blood oxygen capacity."
Bergeron adds that such a performance enhancement is "a bio-chemical feedback mechanism from an external source. The external source in the present case, music, is available to everyone, not harmful to the athlete or his peers, and carried out under full disclosure, hence I do not see how this conflicts with fair play and honesty," but says that "I am not an expert on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)."

Well, one doesn’t have to be an expert on WADA policies, as the scientific evidence provided herein enforces all to take WADA code as is. The Prohibited List 2008 of The World Anti-Doping Code reads:

The following are prohibited:
2. Artificially enhancing the uptake, transport or delivery of oxygen…
Straightforward ruling results in a straightforward conclusion: Listening to music through earphones before the start is in line with other measures prohibited. Therefore, Phelps’ Beijing swimming golds is faked and should go to others who battle for it fairly.

Doping Journal is an independent free online publication on every aspect of doping science and antidoping policies. The journal serves an unbiased research and development of the science on doping, fair and science based transparent anti-doping laws, transparency of policies and the translation of the research into routine lab practice. Special objective is to protect athletes from the misconduct by WADA, IOC, CAS and Sports Federations. The journal aims to become a leader and worldwide forum on doping science and practices by all interested parties, scientists, medical professionals, athletes and lawyers. Alexei Koudinov and The Doping Journal have no competing financial interests.

(Photo: Associated Press)


you know seeing as michael phelps does extra drug testing and the whole world sees him listiening to music before he swims i come to 3 conclusions.
1. He has no idea of the effects music has on his swimming (though i highly doubt its a big effect)
2. The officals/judges have no idea therefore they don't care.
3. If the officals don't care then anyone can listen to music before and they chose not so the playing field (pool whatever) is even.

This is silliness. It's like prohibiting stretching, warming up or deep breathing before competitions because all of those improve performance.

Who pays this guy to think up things like this?

Assinine. A waste of ink.

I understand the study, but that doesn't mean that Michael is cheating. He's just taking advantage of the relaxation that music can afford before a life changing event!

This just in: The NFL, MLB, NBA and Pro Hockey have all banned fans from attending games because it is determined that fans cheering for the home team may give them an unfair advantage.

Thank goodness he doesn't sing along with the lyrics. He could very well suffer from sheer exhaustion before he even starts!

And Dr Koudinov concludes: "And, one time at band camp.........."

What a crock!

As just about everyone knows, breathing increases blood oxygenation. Should this also be considered illegal.


Why stop with external enhancements. Let's go right to the source. Any athlete whose adrenaline levels spike just before competing is to be banned from the competition. This ought to be easy enough to measure at poolside. The only hard question is when to stop taking the measurement: when the swimmer gets on the pool deck, the starting board, or just before he hits the water. I agree with mookman - what a crock. It would be better to tell other athletes to develop a taste for music.

So what. He wore headphones in Athens too.

I understand breathing has the same effect! I believe the IOC should ban breathing before a race as well!!

The article makes perfect sense when the following quotation from the article is considered -

"The journal aims to become a leader and worldwide forum..."

Beats listening to crying from Alain Bernard.......

OK, let me get this straight. This Dumb A** has a problem with the questionable enhancement effects of listening to music but not the suits that the athletes are wearing? This is from a Sun Article on the same page: "The suits are certainly a factor. How much of a factor is a subject of debate. Speedo's LZR Racer, which was developed in cooperation with NASA and is designed to reduce drag, has received considerable attention for its laser-bonded seams and its ability to increase oxygen intake by 5 percent."

So reporting that a NASA designed suit increases O2 intake by 5% isn't as serious as listening to music? WTF?

In the disclaimer it says that the Journal aims to become a leader... Meaning they are NOT a leader in this area and with this type of crap, we know they will not become a leader in this field.

I can't believe I even wasted my time to write this!!

Here we go again, some idiot trying to steal the thunder away from the "Greatest Olympic Champion" of all time. Music is listened to all over the world and in all sports by millions of athletes and is a form of motivation and relaxation. For this guy to even put listening to music in the same category as a Performance Enhancing drug is sheer stupidity!!!!

I guess all of the years of training and always being a winner before the damn IPOD was even created doesn't mean anything to this creap. You have way to much time on your hands Doctor, why don't you spend more time trying to help people instead of being a Rat.

Music is played during a lot of athletic events - gymnastics, ice skating, baseball, ice hockey, etc. So swimmers your own ear phones and listen to music Phelps will still win. Nanny nanny boo boo!

He's not listening to music, he just likes the feel of earbuds...

I agree with everyone that lots of things "enhance performance," including eating, breathing, getting hugged, being a non-smoker, training, sleeping, and listening to cheers or music. The question is whether these things are natural or "artificial" (i.e., morally the same as taking injections of some chemical, etc.) Claiming music is no different than blood doping, and that a world hero is a cheater, is such a narrow and mean-spirited thing to say that I think the author is cynically trying to gain undeserved attention by riding the coattails of a giant. The researchers cited are astute to have measured such trivia, but the author has no authority to extend the application of "artificial" far into the realm of external, uncontrollable, and/or personal circumstances. If I applied his own standard to his writing, I would conclude it is a cheap attempt to gain attention from the success of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Shame on you, "doctor," and your poison pen.

ANY athlete can get an ipod and listen to music -- if we go along with this way of thinking, then that means NO athlete can listen to music....olympics or not. I guess that means the "doctor" thinks soccer mom's can't let their kids listen to the radio before a game. Hanna Montana would be "doping" their children!

What about in baseball games when they play organ music. Da da da DA da DAAAAA..CHARGE! If this is considered doping, then what is steriod use?

Doesn't everybody know that music is more powerful than drugs? Perhaps Phelps is addicted to music and he can only stop listening to it when he's swimming. Poor guy. He needs help.

Who is this joker? It's not like Phelps is preventing any other swimmer from listening to music. Since he is doing it in public and it is obviously not illegal to do so any other swimmer can do it as well.

The writer of the article is qualified
to write for that Journal.

He is a Dope! He also has I-pod envy.

Paging Dr Moe, Paging Dr Larry
Paging Dr Curley

Does anyone know what's on his iPod playlist? My wife suggested I listen to the same songs before we go to bed.

OK, seriously, what's he listening to?

Talk about picking apart the term "performance enhancing." Last time I checked almost every sport plays music prior to and during games/events. Also, the crowd cheering would boost someone's performance as well. This is nonsense. It might very well be true that listening to music improves the delivery of oxygen for a brief period of time but it wouldn't boost it so well that it would help a swimmer destroy the competition. He's a natural, with or without music, he would win. I guess we just have to lock every athlete in a hermetically sealed box and only let them out when they are to compete. That way they couldn't cheat by listening to music or eating a power bar. They shouldn't be allowed to hydrate either, that enhances performance as well. If you couldn't tell, I think these doctors need to get a life.

He lsitening to the theme from the movie Jaws.

To Wad:

See the first sentence of the essay - it links to a blog that specifies the music Phelps likes to listen before training or race. The source of that info, however, is not known. Good luck! Make sure, though, WADA won't hunter you. You know, as a cheater you can be disqualified from in-bed competition for a number of years.

It could be argued that simply the act of breathing is "Artificially enhancing the uptake, transport or delivery of oxygen…".

Perhaps those who wish to rob Michael Phelps of his gold medals should try holding their breath.


Given those studies and data -- the conclusion Koudinov makes that Michael Phelps is cheating is stupid. Just plain stupid. So this "Dr" gets now is few minutes of fame. ...idiot!

Given those studies and data -- the conclusion Koudinov makes that Michael Phelps is cheating is stupid. Just plain stupid. "Dr Koudinov now gets a few minutes of fame with his idiotic conclusion - people that listen to music cheat . ...idiot!

How do you know Phelps is even listening to music? I think he's listening to a recording of Alain Bernard, the Frenchie (former 100 freestyle world record holder, who choked on the anchor leg of the 400 relay): "The Americans? We are going to smash them. That's what we came here for."

This is ridiculous. Phelps is transparent. He passes all the doping tests, and he doesn't try to hide anything he does. In fact, he's very public about what he does, which is to decimate his competition because he is that much better than the others - music or no music. Why don't Koudinov and Koelsch spend their research dollars on something meaningful, instead of grousing because a single athlete, who is clearly superior to the others in his field, happens not to be from their country.

If I see Rick Dutrow fitting Big Brown with earphones in the shedrow before his next start, THEN I will believe listening to music, like Whinny in the horse racing world, is indeed "performance enhancing".

I think this is just stupid. They should not take Michael Phelps's gold metals away just for listening to music. The reason he wins is because he conserves his swimming energy until the last lap back. That is how Michael Phelps wins the gold. Dr. Alexei Koudinov is making up NONSENSE!!! Phelps has passed all the drug tests. Phelps wins because he trains and works out to get this good at swimming. Phelps is NOT Cheating in any way. He is about to beat the world record for the most gold metals acheived. I think Dr.Koudinov is jealous of Michael Phelps. I do not and will never call or see Phelps as a cheater.

wow that was just the lamest thing i have ever read. michael works soo hard for what he accomplishes we have no idea. how dare you "dr" say that his medals should be taken away for something that is perfectly allowed. its not like its a secret or anything he listens out there infront of tons of people! plus he does extra drug testing which proves to everyone that he's clean and plays by the rules.


By this logic, isn't food a performance enhancer? If you eat iron, which naturally occurs in food, the oxygen storage capacity of your hemoglobin increases. What is more artificial, composed/performed music or food cultivated by modern agriculture? Or how about the crowd cheering? That can cause increased release of adrenalin. I am sure an injection of adrenalin would be disallowed by WADA.

This guys belongs to the family of d-bags that must bring down anyone who has excelled in their field. Perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves but they are the equivalent of a group of catty girls at the prom who must snipe at everyone's appearance and cut them apart to make up for their own insecurities. This article has done nothing but bring out how pathetic he is.

The really sad part is that there are problably taxpayers somewhere who subsidized this clown as he came up with this silly argument.

That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of in my life. Dude, music? I could listen to the worlds best music and still would not be able to swim a bit! And if it works so well why doesn't everyone listen to music before they swim? That kind of jouranlism really makes be think that the masses are really asses.

OMG! It's not the music he listens to...it's his size 14 feet! He doesn't have feet he has fins!!!!! GO MICHAEL!!!! I hope he breaks more records and wins all of the rest of his GOLD MEDALS!

OMG! It's not the music he listens to...it's his size 14 feet! He doesn't have feet he has fins!!!!! GO MICHAEL!!!! I hope he breaks more records and wins all of the rest of his GOLD MEDALS!

and Mist and Keri play so well because they play old rock music on the PA system? A mindis a terrible thing to waste.

I think we should prohibit him from doing those three habitual (and, so, highly suspect) arm "flaps" before each swim, too. They're probably some kind of shady performance-enhancing mechanism like listening to music just before swimming.

If listening to music is cheating, then why would they allow women to perform to music in the women's gymnastics floor routines. peace.

I can understand why many of you claim heresy for the words of the author of this article. But just take Michael Phelps out of the picture, and just use any athlete. If listening to music increases oxygen to the bloodstream - which is an artificial act, it technically falls under the definitions of the codes and is illegal.

What is not proven is that if listening to music has an effect on athletes. But of anybody, Michael Phelps does it for a reason, and he knows why.

We need proof that there is actually music coming from them.

Let's not only forbid relaxing before the race, but maybe agitate competitors, so they would be stressed out. Maybe smiling, or being happy is somehow cheating. I find Koelsch and Cherniak's thoughts funny and amusing. Setting yourself into correct mood for a race (be it music or relaxation rising blood oxygen levels) is not and will never be cheating. I'm very sorry to have read this text at all... :-)

Why u even bother.

These people ought to be ashamed for being so jealous and publishing this trash. Did Isreal even qualify for swimming?

Proving once again, that one can be both a scientist and a moron at the same time.

This is a joke, right? I can't believe this "doctor" isn't willing to differentiate between chemical doping (true cheating) and training/relaxation/focusing techniques.

I guess Phelps is a cheater because he also swims 5 hours a day and eats 12,000 calories. And here I thought he was winning those gold medals because he's a superb swimmer and and he trains like a machine.

I love how people are willing to knock somebody's accomplishments by splitting hairs.

This dolt claims Phelps should lose his mdeals because he listens to music. I would like to hear this "doctor's" opinions on whether or not those Chinese gymnasts are really 16.

Somebody cheated during these Olympics. But it wasn't Phelps.

If listening to music is doping, then I confess...I dope, too. And I love it!

What if he hums to himself before the race is that doping too??

If ipod is doping, i'd like to see what Dr K is smoking. These type of guys could only possibly be making these outrageous statements for the attention that it will bring to themselves. Boo to you Dr K. your degree/license should be revoked. Go join the circus you freak.

ya right. To apply this semi-scientific information to the existing actual policy, the study cited would have to identify the length of time before the music has an effect and the types of music that might have this effect, and then they would have to prove that Phelps isn't listening to motivational speakers. I think the policy would also have to determine that listening to music is artificial since the body NATURALLY reacts to music and the ear is meant as the input.
If music artificially improves oxygen absorption, then so does the massages he gets, and so does the Kinesio tape that all the gymnasts were wearing.
Please. This rule was meant to prevent people from using oxygen tanks to saturate the blood.
Get over it, Doctor.

Maybe he's listening to a podcast on cooking or automobile repair. Is that cheating?

Music and iPods, the gateway drug to doping.....

What a fool...

So, what would be the difference between him listening to an iPod and somebody singing to him before a meet??


Wow. Dr K; a total waste of carbon and oxygen.

As Dominique stated perfectly-
"Proving once again, that one can be both a scientist and a moron at the same time." Posted by: Dominique | August 15, 2008 10:49 AM

bahaha give me a break. ya its against the rules to listen to hiphop before a race. stfu

I hope to God that this guy does not get funding from our tax-dollars to further look into something like this. I guess everyone has to get their 15 minutes from somewhere.

I love this article, even though nobody else seems to get that it's making fun of the ridiculously over-hyped doping hoopla in the sports media. Perfect use of actual experts to support an obviously over-the-top claim, and the definitive language used only makes it more hilarious.

I really just wish that people knew how to read and could therefore appreciate the subtle genius.

What loser studies these kinds of things?? He listens to music to calm himself down and to loosen himself up.

I have scientific evidence that listening to music prior to races has no unfair advantage. I listen to music before every triathlon and cycling race that I compete in. I'm just as crappy a racer when I listen to music as when I don't listen to music. (LOL) Phelps' advantage comes from...(are you sitting down?)...HARD WORK in the pool. Eat, sleep, swim, rinse and repeat.....a billion times. :-D

For those of you are not inside the Water Cube, let me shed some light as to what is actually happening "music-wise..." The media production folks are pretty much playing music ALL THE TIME (except when a race is underway). So, during the parade of athletes (that magical 2 minutes before), all the swimmers are getting their music dose. During the announcing of the swimmers, music is being played in the background. During breaks when nothing is happening, music is being played. So, by the theories raised in this article, the swimmers, the entire crowd, the officials, the volunteers, grandma's seeing eye dog, etc are doping. And to boot, we all getting an equal treatment. I wonder if I, as a crowd music listener inside the Water Cube, can use the fact that I am doped up on music as a way to cheer louder. Hum, we'll see today. Go Phelps!

Excuse me, but what are those ear pliugs scene in the other swimmers ears?

Excuse me, but what are those ear plugs scene in the other swimmers ears?

Not really cheating if everyone else is allowed to do it, eh?

Does Israel even have any swimmers in the Olympics? Go peddle this crap somewhere else "doc".

pero que pedasos de inutiles, porque no se preocupan en buscar que esta tomando, o en algo que valga la pena y no en la estupides que acabo de leer!!

When I happened to stumble across this article, I thought this was an April Fool's joke that came months too late.

Listening to music is doping? Give me a freaking break!!!

And Michael Phelps should have his medals stripped to those who played 'fair'? What the heck are you talking about ? If it's not against the rules, then how can it be cheating??? And why would something like this be considered cheating in the first place?!! Someone, please explain it to me, because I think I just lost several bazillion brain cells reading this article!

I've seen athletes listen to music for years in the Olympics!! I once heard one athlete say they used it to block everything around them completely out. The less they knew about what their competitors did, the easier it was for them to concentrate on what they needed to do. So, should they have their medals stripped, too?

I can't believe I wasted five minutes of my life reading such trash. I'm permanently scarred, and this doctor will be getting my medical bills.


It's like my mother always says-- You can take the most perfect thing in the world, but there will always be someone out there trying to find reasons to criticize it.

what a tool! I laughed when I saw that question- followed by, "get the f*ck out?" I can't imagine how this guy got his phd, let alone funding to do any work. What does research involve, btw? ODing on Lil Wayne et al vs. a hard weekend on drugs to compare results? Crazy.

So proud and pleased for Phelps with the 7th win. What he's been doing is nothing short of amazing. In fact, the swimming section has been pretty high octane all round, with great races from Lochte, Addlington (UK), Soni, Coughlin and many more- I HEART OLYMPICS:-)

Your a jackass. What, other countries cant afford to buy themselves a damn iPod so its cheating. Wah. tough shit.

need to get a life... Phelps devotion to the sport and his incredible physique are the reason he carves!!

Music is a calming technique and a relaxation method.

Koudinov is a mouth-breather.

I am Mexican... I will request our goverment to give Ipods to all of our competitors to see if we can get ONE medal..... Congratulations to the Greatest Olympian Ever... It ia REALLY AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW...

Reads like an Onion article, doesn't it?

The WADA section quoted is about blood doping, and chemical equivalents like blood substitutes and certain cancer drugs. Doesn't seem that it applies to physical effects from LZR suits, breathe right strips or music. Perhaps Dr. Koudinov labors under the old Soviet ideal of "that which isn't specifically permitted is forbidden."

o please give the man a break he is good, people jus cant be great without them cheating!!!

All the science behind this doctors assertion that Phelps is doping is asnine. What it comes down to is that it's a Jewish doctor who is mad that a goyim has just matched and will soon beat the former record holder, who is Jewish. If it was Michael Phelpstein, this Doctor would have never made the claim.

I am Filipino and to be honest, I could not believe I wasted my time reading this article that is filled with crap. So now music is another form of doping? My suggestion is next time it should be banned in Gymnastic, Synchronized Swimming, and other sports! We'll see how every competition on the planet could survive without MUSIC . So stupid! This Doctor just lost his credibility. By the way, does Israel even have its own swimmers who got qualified in the Semis? I BET NONE ZERO!!!!! PHELPS IS A REAL AQUAFISH! and all you haters out there should feel sorry about your pathetic lifestyles. Everybody seems envy now that Phelps became an Overall Olympic Chamption. Leave the guy alone.

Please God tell me you are being satirical.

i for one think this is a load of crock because Phelps just uses the music to get ready for an event that takes a lot of concentration... why don't you take this up Phelps himself... whoever pays this guy to think of crackpot stories like this needs to fire his butt!!!!!!!!!!


I am not satirical. I am serious. As well as other scientists, testified on the story. For an update (with images, time specifics, etc) please visit Doping Journal article "Scientific evidence invalidates Beijing 2008 Olympic Swimming medals". URL is http://dopingjournal.org/content/5/2 .

Added is the testimony by scientists from Nobel Prize in Medicine home Institution, Sweden, saying that music even can program an athlete body for a certain outcome.

Yeah, that's really terrible... I guess he will get a punishment. I hope. Taking advantages from others swimmers who had been training hard in such a big period?

Most of the guys here are saying "leave him alone" or "that's not ilegal", just because most of them are americans. It's an easier way to get medals, don't you think?

That's unfair, and something must be done about it.

B*****T! Michael Phelps is an amazing althlete who deserved every gold medal he won and every world record he set. Stop tryng to take away what he FAIRLY earned. It's seriously pathetic. I am so proud to have such a NATURALLY talented athlete representing America.

Wow. Just wow. People are so desperate to bring this guy down that they resort to this.It's not like Phelps hides the earphones from everybody. I'm sure if the officials or the IOC had a problem with it they would force him to stop. Even if this really does anything, Phelps still trains extremely hard and he also has a unique body structure that is ideal for swimming (as seen on Phelps' second-to-last final). Plus, you could argue that it helps him cope with ADHD. This is insane.

you are a f---- idiot... why the hell would you accuse someone of cheating for listening to music.. people are so stupid today that they can't just be happy for someone doing a good job.. they have the have their hands in every little thing and assume that something is going wrong or something is a conspiracy.. and automatically blow things out of proportion.. i hope you're little theory works out for you.. why don't you just have some test done where you have everyone listen to music and then you will see that michael phelps is just plane good at what he does..

I would guess he is listening to Queen's "We are the champions" :)

If you go through the footnotes to the article recently published by Koudinov, you'll see that he first raised the matter in 2004 - the first issue of his "journal" which was written during the Athens games. He says he noted that "my national swimming team" did not win any medals, as opposed to the teams from the US and Australia , and alleged that Michael Phelps' use of earphones, and that of a few other swimmers, was an illegal enhancement. "My team" didn't win any medals. Hmmmm.

He's been riding this horse for four years, trying to get WADA and the IOC on board, but his argument is obviously getting the attention it deserves - giggles.


Phelps probably got on an airplane to get to China. Airplanes are not natural. If he did anything other than swam over the ocean, he was given an artificial advantage by just getting to the Olympics. If he would have taken the only natural (whatever that actually means) means to get to China, he would be dead. If he were dead, he would not be able to compete. If he were not able to compete, he wouldn't have won the gold medals. Therefore, since he used an artificial means to get to China, Phelps had an unnatural boost. Therefore, the music doesn't matter. He was a cheater before the Olympics even began.

That makes about as much sense as claiming music is cheating.

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About this blog
Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg and Rick Maese will blog from Beijing throughout the Summer Olympics. Kevin and Rick will blog back and forth with each other as a way of letting readers in on the sights, sounds and the action in Beijing.

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