Changing China

Giant on the move

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Jamaicans show how to relax ahead of the Games

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Jamaican team in a relaxed moodMy colleague Balazs Koranyi blogged yesterday about how hard it is for athletes in the build-up to the Games, when their preparations are pretty much complete and there’s too much sit and think.

Well, maybe not every athlete. The Jamaican track and field team had no qualms about letting their hair down and showing off their considerable assets at a pre-Games party this week.

The coaches, physios and psychologists were forgotten for a while as most of the squad were squeezed into a Beijing Jazz club on the eve of Jamaican Independence Day. And if anyone doubted that muscles could be sexy, they should have been there.

A group of local women set the scene when they whipped off their traditional masks and long silk gowns to deliver a raunchy display that left the movie Dirty Dancing resembling a church picnic. Not to be outdone, hurdler Shevon Stoddart and long jumper Chelsea Hammond joined them while modelling their new track outfits.

Never work with animals or children…

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Comedian W.C. Fields is reputed to have said, “Never work with animals or children.” There’s no question that cuteness done right can upstage anyone or anything.

For my money, this picture taken by Reuters photographer Alessandro Bianchi of a panda in the Beijing zoo happily munching away upstages most of the pictures of smog, arriving dignitaries and assorted preparations we’re getting as we wait for the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.

Olympic Journalists Saved From Food Inflation

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rtr20l3c.jpgFood inflation may be a huge issue in the “real” world, but in the world of the Olympics, journalists got a welcome and tremendous reprieve on Thursday.

At the coffee bar inside the main press centre, the price of a double espresso tumbled from RMB 23 (almost $3.40) to RMB 12 ($1.76) overnight.

Chinese smiles show changing times in Beijing

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subway smilesIt’s 18 years since I was last in Beijing as a wet-behind-the-ears backpacker, and of course the city is barely recognisable.

But what has really surprised me is the way the atmosphere has changed. Not the smog, but the way the people of China have opened their arms and welcomed visitors from around the world.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Yao Ming holds the Olympic torch aloft

Chinese basketball player Yao Ming (C) holds the Olympic torch during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Beijing August 6, 2008. REUTERS/Joe Chan (CHINA)

Russell Boyce writes: Yao Ming enters Tiananmen Square holding the Olympic torch high in the air in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao. The calm in the faces of Yao and Mao belies the chaos that surrounds them, as the flame escorts push back the assembled media and a crush of spectators.

Off target and aquiver — archery is harder than it looks

With our flags fluttering high above the Beijing archery venue, my German opponent and I nodded to each other in a show of mutual respect ahead of the sudden death shoot-off. The score was tied at 2-2 — the next one to burst a balloon in the middle of the target was the winner.

Our instructor for the day, the archery federation’s dashing event director Juan Carlos Holgado, moved us back 30 metres from the target and we let loose. Some 15 minutes and 20 arrows later, the only thing to have burst was our confidence.

Messi likely to miss Olympics

News just out that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled in favour of Barcelona and decided they will not have to release Argentine forward Lionel Messi for the Olympics.

Assuming Barcelona do not have a change of heart, it means one of the biggest-name athletes at the Games will not be taking part. Brazilians Diego and Rafinha, of Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, will now also presumably be going home.

You can carry the flag, Dirk — just don’t wave it around

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Nowitzki trainsDirk Nowitzki was picked to carry the German flag into the Olympic Stadium’s Opening Ceremonies on Friday but, in a country where carrying the national flag had long fallen out of favour, the NBA all-star basketball player was given a few unsolicited pointers by German Olympic officials on how to do the job.

“They gave me the tip that it’s not going to be like at Carnival and so I shouldn’t wave the flag around too wildly,” said Nowitzki, who added he was deeply honoured to be the country’s flag-bearer. “But I think I’ll still be able to have some fun with the whole thing.”

This whole bus, just for me?

If these are the “Green Olympics”, why am I the only passenger in a huge 33-seat bus driving an hour to the Laoshan Velodrome?

Beijing Olympics organisers have been working hard to please the media, and in this case it seems that won out over their pledge to keep the Games environmentally friendly.

Is it smog or ‘static breeze’?

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U.S. cyclist Friedman arrives in a maskWith sensitivities running high among Beijing officials who promised a Green Olympics, including clear skies, any suggestion that the air quality is actually less than clear has caused some hurt feelings among the hosts.

It’s a prickly issue, because some athletes are limiting their time in Beijing, while four American track cyclists arrived yesterday in black face masks.

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