Changing China

Giant on the move

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A cleaner Beijing would be perfect Olympic legacy

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bmx biking against clear skiesFor those of us who live in Beijing, the air during the Olympics has been a real treat. It smells sweet and breathes in nicely. Even better, I feel like I can see forever — buildings that are more than a mile away, even the purple outline of the Fragrant Hills to the west of the city. 

There were a lot of worries about the Beijing smog expressed by athletes and foreign journalists before the Games began. But for the last week, there has been a lovely salmon tinge to the clouds — real clouds, not smog! — in the evenings.

All this is due to Beijing having booted well over a million cars off the streets, idled construction sites, and closed the worst polluting factories for hundreds of kilometers while requiring the not-quite-so-bad plants to install and actually use emissions reducing equipment.

The weather also helped. After a hot, muggy start to the Games when a heavy fog bank sat smack over the city, some rain and a breeze have cleared things out.  The numbers of days where the air quality is rated excellent have soared.

Have the British peaked too soon?

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A British feeding poleThere was a joke going around the Olympics (until yesterday evening) about how none of Britain’s gold medals had been won by people standing up. Perfect for the British, no? We do like a nice sit down and a cup of tea after all.

Christine Ohuruogu ended that odd little sequence when she followed the sailors, swimmers, cyclists and rowers on to the podium to collect her gold for the women’s 400 metres.

A reporter’s day in the life

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Gold medalMy mother back in the United States thinks I’m having a great time in Beijing. She envisions me casually dropping into see the swimming and the athletics, having a relaxed lunch, and then strolling over to the next venue to catch another big event in the evening. Let me give you a run through of one day I had near the start of the Games…

7:00 - Wake up too late for breakfast, rush through ablutions and run for bus. Clear airport-style security. Get on bus for 20-minute ride. Transfer to second bus for 40-minute ride to shooting venue.

Argentina see off sorry Brazil

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Messi and RonaldinhoThe cheers before kickoff in the Beijing Workers’ Stadium were for five-times world champions Brazil and Ronaldinho. At the final whistle, the Chinese crowd rose to acclaim Argentina after a 3-0 win against nine-man Brazil sent them through to the Olympic final.

China may be a relatively untapped soccer market, but the 50,000 plus crowd knew that the best team had won on the night.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Weightlifting grimaces

Russell Boyce writes: The men’s +105kg weightlifting produced grunts and groans, strains and shouts as men lifted weights up to 258kg.

It also produced an amazing series of portraits as these heavyweight giants battled it out for the gold medal, ferocious and hard faced giants every one of them, or at least so it seemed.

Beijing podcast — day 11

Tune in to the latest podcast hear about Yelena Isinbaeva’s pole vault magic, open water swimming’s dirty little secret and why you should never let an Australian come home with souvenirs for the kids.

I’m joined by Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Simon Evans and John “David Gedge” Chalmers for seven minutes of sunshine from grey Beijing. Enjoy…

Who’s top of the medals table?

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Phelps with the great eightAmericans looking at the medals table to the right of this blog, or on the official Games website, might be surprised to see the host country topping the chart with 39 gold medals and 68 in total.

The New York Times website, meanwhile, has the United States on top with a chart-leading 73 medals in total, 23 of them gold.

Race walking is style over substance

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walker1.jpgAfter watching the men’s nail biting, down-to-the-wire 20 km race walk, I’m still not convinced this sport belongs in the Olympics.

Athletics is about running fast, throwing far and jumping high. Walking is about twisting your body and trying to go fast while trying to go slow. It’s like swimming in a straitjacket.

An Olympic wrestling match

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Olympic wrestlingIf you have been to the daily Olympic press briefing by Games organisers you’d think there was a war on around the venues and not a well-run Olympic Games, packed with memorable moments.

While the Games, on a sporting level, have been a smooth operation so far, with records set and ecstatic crowds, inside the press conference room it is a different story.

Beijing podcast — day 10

I’m joined by Simon Evans, Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith and Ossian Shine for a short talk about the sport here in Beijing. Tune in to find out about china’s unluckiest man, the power of the yam and why Michael Phelps wouldn’t touch a dram.

A few technical gremlins delayed this but … better kate than trevor.

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