Changing China

Giant on the move

Swifter, higher, stronger than me

August 7, 2008

Posing in front of the ringsWhere else in the world could you spot a Bhutanese archer, a chunky weightlifter from a tiny South Pacific island and a freckled Ukrainian table-tennis champ within one enclosed space?

Journalism takes you to some strange locations, but the athletes’ village at the Olympic Games has to be one of the most bizarre places on earth.

Like a futuristic zoo of superhumans, everywhere you turn inside the Beijing compound there are impossibly tall and toned creatures of every hue, striding by in small clusters marked by their matching tracksuit colours.

As they flow by, spouting a cacophony of languages, I spin around, Alice-in-Wonderland style, trying to pick out the countries (Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Barbados, Indonesia) and feel like I’m in some high-speed geography test.

Without wishing to turn this whole blog into a celebration of the human form (see Mitch’s piece a couple down) there’s no escaping the fact that everywhere you look¬†there are abnormally long pairs of legs, rippling upper arms and buttocks you could rest your Olympic Almanac on.

I start to feel like a lone and unexotic alien from the Planet Scrawny.

The humidity is getting to me (that must be it), I’m exhausted by all the brawn on show and I’m really starting to feel self-conscious. I need to get back to the world of ordinary people — journalists, techies and so on.

On the way out I see a towering Hercules of a man whose six-pack is jutting through his Great Britain shirt.¬†”Aha,” I say to him (finding a fresh burst of energy.) “My team! And what event are you competing in?”

“Nah, not me,” he answers, crushingly. “I’m just the IT manager.”

PHOTO: Brazilian triple jumper Jadel Gregorio poses for photographers at the Olympic Village in Beijing, August 3, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

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