Changing China

Giant on the move

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from Left field:

Best view of the Tiger? Join the People’s Liberation Army

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PLA soldiers watch Tiger Woods of the U.S. as he plays on the green of the fourth hole during the final round of the 2009 HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai

The huge galleries following the final round match-up between Tiger Woods ("Laohu" to the locals) and Phil Mickelson at the WGC-HSBC Champions last Sunday made life uncomfortable for player and spectator alike on a humid day in Shanghai.

China's wealthiest had paid up to 3,500 yuan ($513) for their tickets but the best view, on the fourth green at least, went to the soldiers in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) barracks on the other side of the canal which runs alongside the hole.

As of 2007, a private in the PLA earned just 1,800 yuan ($264) a year but these guys got a close up of one of the key moments of the day, when Woods plunged his drive into the water and started a downturn in fortunes that ended his attempt to win a first title at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

Mickelson, who missed a putt of less than two feet to bogey the hole, subsequently recovered his nerve and went on to win the tournament for a second time, despite a late charge from Ernie Els.

from Left field:

Hit with Maria? A perk of the job for China’s leaders

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Maria Sharapova of Russia speaks at news conference in Beijing.

As mayor of Beijing for most of the period running up to the 2008 Olympics and now Vice Premier of China with responsibility for financial and economic affairs, Wang Qishan has been a very busy man over the last few years.

 

He has, however, made time to indulge his passion for tennis and been highly influential in the growth of the China Open tournament, now one of the top events in women’s tennis with ambitions of becoming an Asian major.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

‘Special One’ makes few friends in China

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If Inter Milan were intending their trip to Beijing for last week's Italian Super Cup to be a China charm offensive, coach Jose Mourinho was obviously not kept in the loop.

The accepted form for European club officials on pre-season trips to China is to politely praise everything local and talk up the footballing potential of the world's most populous nation.

from Left field:

Ice cold in Heilongjiang

 

Last week I went up to Harbin to check out the Winter University Games, which the city is hoping will act as a springboard to a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It was pretty chilly at the wonderfully kitsch Ice and Snow Festival, highlights of which you can see above, but up in the mountains the Alpine skiiers were taping up their faces to protect themselves from a wind chill factor of minus 30 degrees Celcius. 

Follow that, London!

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A victory celebration

Sebastian Coe says London is undaunted at having to follow Beijing when it hosts the next Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

“It’s a massive responsibility,” the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games told a news conference on the eve of the closing ceremony of the Paralympics.

Blade Runner eyes triple gold and a crack at London 2012

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Pistorius in action

Double amputee Oscar Pistorius has put the disappointment of not qualifying for the Beijing Olympics behind him and is confident of snaring three gold medals in the athletics at the Paralympics.

He is also looking forward to an attempt to make the next Olympics in London 2012.

Liu Xiang: the end of an Olympic dream

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Liu grimaces“Well that’s it,” a journalist friend said when he phoned me at the Bird’s Nest a couple of hours after Liu Xiang hobbled out of the Beijing Olympics. “We might as well pack our backs and go home.”
 
We won’t, of course, but for us China-based reporters, this was always going to be the big one: the race that defined the Olympics.
 
I was in the Olympic stadium in Athens the night Liu won the 110 metres hurdles gold. Then it was a mild diversion, a tremendous performance from an unlikely source. He had barely finished his lap of honour, though, before his title defence in Beijing was being written about. It was too neat a line to miss.
 
Since then, I’ve written thousands of words about the skinny man from Shanghai with a penchant for karaoke and braised pork.
 
I was there last year, too, when he won his first world title on a hot and humid night in Osaka, his favourite track.
 
By then I’d been inside the Bird’s Nest and even as I pondered the raw concrete bowl with mud beneath my feet where the track would lie, I was thinking about how it would look and sound packed to its twisted steel rafters with a fevered Chinese crowd cheering Liu on.
 
Liu’s coach criesWe did see him run in the stadium at a test event earlier this year, but, to adapt a line from an American politician, I know Olympic finals and that was no Olympic final.
 
After his injury earlier this season, and his disappearance behind closed doors for a couple of months, I can’t even say I’m even surprised by what has happened. 
 
I have always felt sorry for Liu because of the pressure he was under and today also felt sympathy for his coach Sun Haiping, who has always come across as a thoroughly decent man. 
 
But rather selfishly, my main emotion is disappointment. We now know almost for certain that we will never hear the sound of 91,000 people celebrating an Olympic gold medal for one of their own in what must be one of the world’s finest stadiums.  

PHOTO (TOP): Liu Xiang of China grimaces in pain during his warm-up before the start of his 110m hurdles heat in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

‘Shout fewer slogans and do more practical things!’

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One world, one dream sloganSlogans, mottos, concepts, call them what you will, but the 2008 Beijing Olympics does not lack for pithy phrases.

Slogans, or kouhao, often sit better in the Chinese language where they are made up of fewer characters than the more cumbersome English translations.

900 days on, my Games begin

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Synchronised swimmersI’d like to write that when I first arrived in Beijing on that freezing February morning in 2006, I spied, through the gloom and smog, the number 900 on the Olympic countdown clock that sits beside the airport highway.

I can’t do that, sadly — I don’t remember it, and I’m not even sure the countdown clocks were up by then — but that is, by my calculation, what it would have read on my first day in China.

Smogwatch (1)

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After a promising start in the immediate aftermath of the “odd-even” car restrictions and factory closures on July 20th, the air quality in Beijing has slowly deteriorated, as this combination picture shows.

Beijing's polluted skies 

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says data shows that improvements have been made, but this is surely not the backdrop that organisers had in mind for the Olympics.

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