Changing China

Giant on the move

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Hop on the Olympics-mobile

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pinheadOne of the more entertaining things about these Olympics for me has been seeing Chinese people of all ages and backgrounds find their own ways of expressing enthusiasm for the Games.

Some have bordered on the bizarre.

One man stuck a couple of hundred mini flagpoles in his head to show his support. Another guy I saw walked down the sidewalk in front of the Bird’s Nest, in a red dress and high heels, with a crown crafted out of palm leaves on his head and a big Chinese flag draped over each shoulder (wish I’d had a camera with me!).

Then there’s the young man who was out in front of the Water Cube with the Olympic rings shaved into his hair, calling out “Go China!” from his rickshaw.

trikeCompared with these guys, Hu Wenyuan’s enthusiasm is decidedly tame. But having a chance to chat with him was a wholly refreshing experience.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Phelps underwater

Gary Hershorn writes: Underwater photography is a tricky thing to get right but Germany-based photographer Wolfgang Rattay has perfected the art of making dramatic images from a most unusual angle.

Today’s photo of Michael Phelps winning his 10th all-time gold medal (the 11th came later) was perfect in its beauty and painting like feel. The image captured Phelps in the lead and on his way to gold.

Phelps is so good the rest have their sights on silver

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Phelps’s mother kisses her sonPoor Laszlo Cseh, the Hungarian who twice in these Games has finished second to Michael Phelps, was quite frank when asked by a reporter whether he had thought, during Wednesday’s 200m butterfly that he could actually beat Michael Phelps.

“It never even crossed my mind,” he said.

That should tell you everything about how much better Phelps is than his rivals — they know they are swimming for silver medal at best and that can’t be much fun.

Olympics has an Audrey Hepburn moment

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Rings in the ceremonyFirst it was the fireworks (see below). Now it turns out the opening ceremony to the Beijing Games had its very own Audrey Hepburn moment.

Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who was celebrated across China as the angelic voice with the adorable face who sang “Ode to the Motherland” at Friday’s ceremony, was merely a photogenic stand-in for the real singer, who was rejected because of her appearance.

You’ve won the medal, now visit the country

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Boukpeti with medalTogo won its first ever Olympic medal on Tuesday, when Benjamin Boukpeti picked up a surprise bronze in the men’s slalom kayak event. Now he says he’s going to visit Togo.

Excuse me?

Athletes competing for countries other than the ones they were born in is nothing new. Middle-distance runner Lopez Lomong, who left his village in southern Sudan in 1991 aged six, carried the stars and stripes into the Bird’s Nest stadium at the head of the U.S. team.

Phantastic Mr Phelps (x2)

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Phelps rubs his eyes

Michael Phelps made light of goggle trouble to claim his fourth gold medal of the Games and then helped his American team win the 4 x 100 m freestyle and make it five wins from five, in fact five world records from five, at these Games.

He now has 11 Olympic gold medals, which puts clear blue water between him and four athletes who have won nine.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Natalie Coughlin

Gold medallist Natalie Coughlin (C) of the U.S. wipes away tears as she stands with silver medallist Kirsty Coventry (L) of Zimbabwe and bronze medallist Margaret Hoelzer (R) of the U.S. during the medal ceremony for the women’s 100 meters backstroke swimming final during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 12, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray

Gary Hershorn writes: Emotions run high at the Olympics so it is always nice to see an athlete let loose and cry upon winning or receiving their gold medal. U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin cried on the victory podium and then again on the pool deck as she stood in front of photographers completely unable to contain her emotions. This never fails to produce a strong emotional photo.

Does it matter if TV firework ‘footprints’ were a fix?

Organisers created a bit of a storm this morning when they revealed that parts of the spectacular firework display at the opening ceremony had been pre-recorded.

See this from Karolos Grohmann’s story on Reuters:

“Some footage had been produced before the opening ceremony to provide theatrical effect,” Beijing Games Executive Vice President Wang Wei told reporters.

A Cubist magic trick

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The water cube

After years of seeing just a hole in the ground, then a mess of construction cranes, then mysterious activity going on behind barrier walls, yesterday I finally got to enter the Water Cube.

There’s no doubt that it’s impressive from the outside. The rectangular building is known for its transluscent facade that evokes giant soap bubbles and at night the whole thing glows in hues of blue, a warm beacon on the otherwise grey and beige horizon of Beijing.

Argentina to play Siberia as Batista gets lost in translation

Argentine journalists were startled to learn that their team would be playing a match against Siberia at the Olympic football tournament. At least, that is what the official translation said.

Coach Sergio Batista, speaking ahead of a game against Serbia, looked on it utter bewilderment as one interpreter attempted to translate his answers from Spanish into Chinese and another then tried to translate the Chinese version of his answer into English.

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