Giant on the move
But how bad is the Beijing air really? Is it miserable beyond endurance for athletes busting their lungs to deliver peak performance? Or are the smog stories a smokescreen, part of the exaggeration attendant on any Olympic Games?
I decided to conduct a completely unscientific test. How would my 44-year-old physique, finely honed by two decades hunched over a laptop writing stories, cope with running around the Olympic venues?
Not very well is the answer, though in my own and Beijing’s defence some of that was due to jetlag. Today was easier, as the temperature had dropped to an acceptable 25 degrees Celsius and a light rain cooled my progress. But yesterday was miserable, with about 8 degrees more heat, high humidity and not a breath of wind to wick away the sweat.
Roll on 12 years and you could argue beach volleyball is the perfect modern Olympic sport.
Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou has been barred from competing at the Beijing Olympics over her involvement in the doping scandal that overshadowed the Athens Games.
Thanou came back from her two-year ban to qualify for these Games but she still needed permission from the IOC to compete and that has been emphatically denied.
The opening day of real competition at the Olympic Games produced seven gold medals, two of them for China and one each for the United States, South Korea, Romania, Spain and Czech Republic.
There was a pall cast over the day’s sporting events, however, as a Chinese man stabbed to death the father-in-law of a U.S. Olympic coach at a Beijing tourist spot before taking his own life.
Weightlifting is not the most glamorous Olympic sport. Forget about glitzy endorsement deals, tabloid tell-alls and magazine shoots. This is a world where taciturn men from Belarus and compact women from China win their gold medals in relative obscurity.
But for 67 minutes on Saturday morning, weightlifting had its place in the limelight.
It’s not every day you see an Olympic athlete wearing hunting gear put down her rifle halfway through an event, stroll into the crowd, chat with a nice-looking young man for a few minutes — and then see the two start kissing like high school students who have just fallen in love.
But that’s exactly what happened at the Olympic shooting venue today — in front of about 2,000 spectators and scores of happy photographers whose rapid-fire clicking echoed through the hall. Was it love doping? Was it allowed? Was it even good for her?
Russell Boyce writes: Deciding on a picture of the day from the opening ceremony proved to be harder than I first thought.
The picture has to have the Olympic flame, it has to show the Olympic Rings, it has to show the stadium and part of the opening ceremoy itself and of course it has to show fireworks.
I’ve been deafened by the drums, astounded by the aerial acrobatics and blinded by the cornea-carving light show. The torch is lit in its giant cauldron hanging from the lip of the Bird’s Nest stadium and the 2008 Olympic Games have begun.
But what is it I’ve sat through for hours on a steamy Beijing evening? Was it mass-participation theatre, a pseudo-religious sanctification of sport, a kitsch ‘son et lumiere’ mangling of traditional Chinese art forms? A pyrotechnics-fuelled rock ballet? A modernised courtly pageant or a magnified pantomime of over-produced gimcrackery? The best of Cirque du Soleil-style wizardry or high camp showbiz?
If there was an Olympic gold medal for whingeing then Dunga, coach of the Brazilian soccer team, would be among the early contenders.
The 1994 World Cup winning captain, who as a player was an example of resilience and dedication to the cause, is not a happy camper.