Changing China

Giant on the move

How do you feel, George? Well, it was a speech of two halves…

August 16, 2008

Bush pitchesJournalists don’t generally address politicians by their first name, they tend to ask them searching questions and it’s rare to see them fawning. Not so, sports reporters.

For the vacuous, how about this, heard in the handball mixed zone at the Beijing Games: “Congratulations, Anita. Fantastic match. How did you feel in the last 10 minutes?”

(Who are these people who seem to be on first-name terms with athletes of second-tier sports anyway)?

Or take the killer question thrown at the men’s kayak bronze medallist this week: “Benjamin, I saw you go over and hug your mum. What did you say to her?”
Imagine if the rest of the journalistic fraternity adopted the same fascination with touchy-feely trivia I’ve found while covering the Games. The White House press corps, for example:

“Hey, George, great speech! How did you feel as the applause went up at the end?”

And let’s imagine the U.S. president gets with the programme.

Question: “Are you looking forward to your encounter with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing?

Answer: “Well, it’s going to be a discussion of two-sides, Randy. He’s a very good politician, but I’ve been preparing for this meeting for months and as long as I keep my concentration I should be able to come out on top.”

John Chalmers is Reuters editor for political and general news, Asia. He is on first name terms with very few world leaders.

PHOTO: U.S. President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch to U.S. team catcher Lou Marson before practice while visiting the U.S. Olympic baseball team at the Wukesong Cultural and Sports Center in Beijing August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

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