Changing China

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Day seven at the Games: Fabulous Phelps keeps focus on the pool

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Phelps divesMichael Phelps made it six golds in six races to edge closer to the record of Mark Spitz, while the three fastest men in the world whetted the appetites of 90,000 fans at the Bird’s Nest as swimming and athletics vied for attention on Friday.

Phelps was untroubled in the men’s 200 metres individual medley, moving to within one win of Spitz’s record from the 1972 Games.

Can anything stop Phelps? Well, yes, it is possible. American team mate Ian Crocker holds the world record and is up against him in the 100m fly on Saturday morning.

Can anything stop Usain Bolt in the men’s 100m on the track? That looks more doubtful. Bolt appeared to have plenty in hand as he won his second heat in 9.92 seconds and it will be a major surprise if anyone can catch him on Saturday.

A stroll in the sun for Usain Bolt (Updated)

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Bolt amblesUntil today I would not have thought it possible that somebody could amble 100 metres in 9.92 seconds but that is what Usain Bolt did in his second heat of the event on the first day of athletics action in the Bird’s Nest.

The gods had been kind and produced a clear-skied day hot day with minimum breeze and Bolt enjoyed his time in the sun.

Beijing podcast — day seven

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In which Julian Linden, Martin Petty, Ossian Shine and myself combine to discuss Harry Potter, Rocky and Mary Poppins, as well as all the sport you could shake a stick at.

This one’s short and sweet so go ahead and give it a click. What else have you got to do for the next seven minutes?

Instant expert: the men’s 100m

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The athletics is underway, at last, and the three favourites Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay all came safely through their heats this morning.

This is the race everyone will be talking to in the build-up to Saturday’s final so we thought we’d give you the chance to sound like an expert without have to leaf through the record books.

Move over Mr Phelps, the real Games are about to begin

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Tyson Gay

Michael Phelps and the swimming have been great, I’ve really enjoyed the beach volleyball, the Greco-Roman wrestling has been interesting and I’ve even watched the archery.

All in all, the last six days have been a really good warm up, but now I’m ready for the real action, which it does on the track in the Bird’s Nest Stadium on Friday morning.

Beijing podcast — day six

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What do all those athletes get up to in the Village once the competition is over?

Is Michael Phelps the most marketable athlete in the world?

And can Julian Linden speak a bit more clearly, please?

I’m joined by Julian, Mitch Phillips, Nick Mulvenney and Belinda Goldsmith to discuss the smouldering issues of the day.

Who is the greatest Olympian? Clue: it’s not Michael Phelps

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Phelps with his third Beijing goldMichael Phelps is a phenomenal swimmer, possibly the best in history, and if he achieves his target of eight gold medals in Beijing, for an overall tally of 14 (10 of them individual) there is no doubt that he deserves his place in the pantheon.

But the greatest-ever Olympian? That is a big call.

There is no denying that it is tough to win an Olympic swimming gold but, once you reach that standard, there are plenty to harvest. Many of the top swimmers seem capable of racing over 100 metres, 200, 400, often in a variety of strokes, plus the medley, and also seemingly have relays for just about every distance.

An Olympic waiting game

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Pool in the villageThe last weeks before the Olympics may be the most difficult for the athletes. The work is done and there’s nothing else to do but wait, rest, watch grass grow and let the pressure build. It’s a time which tests athletes’ mental strength and discipline.

In the last week before my first Olympic race, I tried very hard to escape the Games.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Bolt sits, arms stretched, in front of the Bird’s Nest

Russell Boyce writes: Great contacts and hard work led to Reuters News Pictures photographer Hans Deryk getting exclusive pictures of Usain Bolt, the 100m world record holder at the National Stadium.

The simple picture of Bolt posing with the specially made gold running shoes that he will wear when he aims for Olympic gold are a perfect blend of a sports news value with timing and place. After all, how much better could it get: the fastest man, being seen for the first time at the venue with is new running shoes.

A tale of two stadiums

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Evacuated people rest at a sports stadium which was turned into a temporary shelter in MianyangThis weekend, Beijing inaugurated the new Bird’s Nest Stadium with the “Good Luck Beijing” track and field event. I attended less than 24 hours after covering the earthquake in Sichuan, and the contrast between sports and rubble was a little hard to digest.

The Bird’s Nest stadium, built for the Olympics, can seat 91,000 fans. The air flows through well, keeping it cool in the muggy Beijing summer. The seats are well-positioned, so the contestants can be seen easily. The screens are visible, the sound-system clear, the lighting strong but not harsh.

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