BEIJING -- Zhao Beibei is a 19-year-old university student and a volunteer at the Beijing Olympics.
Yesterday, after a one-hour media session with the U.S. men's basketball team, she was one of about 20 young Chinese girls who walked stride for stride with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant as he left the press auditorium and made his way to a private room reserved for the team. The girls were all wearing volunteer credentials, but it was clear this was personal, not official, business.
They were respectful enough not to touch Bryant, but they wanted to be in his presence. It was small-scale Beatlemania.
Minutes after her brush with Bryant, Zhao was still euphoric. She was giggling, cupping her hand to her mouth and calling friends on her cellphone to tell them of her experience. When she was approached by a Western reporter, she seemed embarrassed that she was in such an elated state, but she agreed to be interviewed after issuing an apology.