Giant on the move
Was the IOC right to criticise Usain Bolt? What is the most dangerous sport at the Games? And what’s the worst horse joke you could possibly imagine?
Tune in to the latest podcast as I’m joined by Julian Linden, Simon Evans, Ossian Shine and Paul Majendie for a figurative stroll around the Olympic green.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, chided Usain Bolt on Thursday for showing a lack of respect to his rivals after his sprint double at the Beijing Games.
Maybe it’s a generational thing but I doubt if a single person lucky enough to be in the Bird’s Nest on for his 200 metres gold and world record on Wednesday, or when he won his 100 metres in such audacious style, would agree.
After 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.
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.
Ever since Usain Bolt’s father Wellesley told Reuters that the “Trelawny Yam” was behind his son’s world-record breaking gold medal win in the men’s 100 metres, the Olympics has gone into a feeding frenzy over yam.
Rarely has a root vegetable enjoyed as much global interest as the previously humble Yam. So, to satisfy our readers’ craving and hunger, here are Several Things You Didn’t Know About Yam (we couldn’t think of 10).
Gary Hershorn writes: Without question the story of the day is Liu Xiang walking off the track.
When the unexpected story happens in front of you it’s a stressful few minutes as you try and understand what is going on and then decide how to illustrate the story. The most important thing to remember is that we are journalists and we must find a way to show what happened.
After the shock of Liu Xiang’s departure from the Games through injury, fans in the Bird’s Nest were given a golden moment to compensate at least slightly, as the peerless Yelena Isinbayeva broke her own world record in the pole vault.
The Russian made sure of the gold medal with just two jumps before returning to have a crack at raising her own best mark. After missing twice, she cleared 5.05 metres at the third attempt — with plenty to spare, it must be said.
Was Usain Bolt’s theatrical exuberance before, during and after his 100 metres final appropriate for a man who gave a devastating performance that broke his own world record?
Or was it indulgent, inappropriate and over the top?
Do we want our sportspeople to be modest personalities whose performances do the talking?
Sweeping the blogosphere, there are two divergent camps when it comes to beach volleyball.
There are those who complain that it is demeaning that female athletes play in bikinis while men wear tanktops and long shorts. Then there those who post pictures of players’ posteriors with pathetic locker-room comments that seem to prove the first camp right.
“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.
We 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