BEIJING, CHINA—After two weeks of remarkable success against the world's finest athletes, the Chinese National Olympic Team was carefully disassembled and put back into storage yesterday, placed in a specially designed, high-tech cryogenic freezing pod for preservation until the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
"You have brought great honor to your nation," said Chinese Prime Minister Deng Xiaoping during a ceremony before more than 800,000 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. "Now we must remove your sculpted limbs from your muscular torsos and return you to your sarcophagi so that you may achieve even greater glories for the People's Republic in the future."
Amid great cheers from the crowd, Deng then pulled a switch, lowering the athletes into the $440 million, titanium-reinforced, liquid radon-cooled absolute zero temperature athlete preservation chamber, where they will be preserved in a perfect state of suspended animation until July 2000.
The elite 120-member Chinese team, which boasts many of the world's finest gymnasts, swimmers and runners, has been kept in the state-of-the-art computer-regulated Mao Zedong Memorial People's Revolutionary Sports Pod, located 200 feet below the surface of Beijing, since the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Despite the overall success of the Chinese team in Atlanta, not all of its members were returned to the pod. Following each Olympics, only the top performers return, with those failing to earn a gold medal killed, stripped for needed parts and replaced by more promising young athletes.
"Only the finest athletes can be preserved," Chinese Olympic Committee spokesperson Zhou Li Quing said. "Those who have brought shame to both nation and family by losing must be paraded naked through the streets of every city in China for people to spit on, then coated with honey and staked down over an anthill. "
Zhou added he is considering a proposal to parade defeated athletes through China's more remote rural provinces as well.
Among those frozen yesterday was 1996 Olympic men's archery gold medalist Liao Bu. "I will see you in the year 2000," Liao said, minutes before being sealed into a pod with his award-winning arms. "But until then, I wish to bring great honor to China as the coldest Olympic archer in the world."
Xiaolu Chang, a five-time Olympic gold medal-winning middle-distance runner, has been in the pod since the 1968 Mexico City Games. "Must win medal," said Xiaolu, 51, who has the perfectly preserved body of a 23-year-old. "Must win medal."
According to scientists, the Chinese athletic pod represents the finest Olympic carbon-based life-form storage facility in the world.
"The only one that compares is the $430 million Mother Russia Olympic Figure Skaters' Pod in Moscow," said M.I.T.'s Paul Blair. "Built for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, it has since been updated with a plutonium-powered coolant turbine, high-speed fast and slow twitch muscle defrosters and separate storage compartments for individual skaters and pairs."