THE MORNING AFTER


How ironic. A day after the Atlanta Olympics were shaken by the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, dark rain clouds poured showers onto the city. This morning, a day after the tragic death of the father-in-law to U.S. men’s volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, Beijing also was greeted with steady drizzle.

Forget the air quality and protests and whether or not female Chinese gymnasts are having passports doctored. All of it became secondary at the 2008 Games on Saturday when Todd Bachman was stabbed to death and his wife, Barbara, critically injured near the Drum Tower in the city’s Ho Hai section. The couple’s daughter, former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman, was with her parents at the time but not injured.

It is now less than an hour before the team begins play in these Olympics against Venezuela, and the press room at Capital Indoor Stadium is filling up far more than it would have for an early round pool match had the attack not taken place. The USOC also has dispatched its top public relations brass to the site. McCutcheon won’t coach today, replaced by top assistant Ron Larsen.

You are allowed three assistant coaches on the bench and U.S. Volleyball at this hour is checking with its international federation whether McCutcheon can return to his capacity in future matches if he chooses.

You get the feeling everyone is having an incredibly difficult time trying to sort this all out. You can’t go a block in this city without seeing some form of security personnel. A police presence is everywhere. And yet right in the middle of one of Beijing’s most popular tourist attractions, some lunatic kills one person, injures two others and then jumps to his death. Face it. We live in a terrible world.

U.S. Volleyball just held a news conference with team leader Rob Browning, who spoke on behalf of the team.

“As a team, there is nothing more important to us than supporting Mrs. Bachman in her struggle and supporting Hugh and Elisabeth in their grief. We are absolutely devastated by their loss and what they are going through. We are banding together as a team to lift up the Bachmans and McCutcheons. We are a family and will get through this as a family.”

Browning said McCutcheon spoke to his team Saturday night via conference call, and that postponing today’s game was never discussed or considered. “We knew we had to deal with it and the boys have done a great job getting ready to play,” Browning said. “Hugh is attending to (his wife) and Mrs. Bachman right now. He doesn’t know if and when he will be able to return.

The team has voiced its support to him and completely understands, so that’s something still to be decided as things progress.”

The U.S. match is now 15 minutes from beginning.

The Americans are now gathered as a team on the stadium court, arms around one another, deep in prayer as the teams begin to ready for competition.