Changing China

Giant on the move

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The Olympic Games by numbers

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    18 – number of days of competition – Aug. 6-7 and 9-24. 302 – medal events 10,708 – athletes taking part 21,600 – media accredited to the Games 2,924 – judges and referees 70,000 – Olympic Games volunteers 91,000 – seats in the “Bird’s Nest” stadium 31 – venues in Beijing 6 – venues outside Beijing (Hong Kong, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao) 7,000,000 – tickets sold 5,000 yuan – ticket for opening ceremony ($661.4) 30 yuan – ticket for softball preliminaries ($3.97) 137,000 km – distance covered by pre-Games torch relay 24.9 Celsius – average temperature in Beijing in August 159.7 mm – average rainfall in Beijing in August

Reuters is putting out a ton of stats and factbox material as well as scores of stories per day. If you haven’t already, please check out our Olympics Website here.

NOTE: This post was updated with new information at 0837 GMT on August 8.

The big day arrives: Beijing abuzz ahead of Games opening

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Dress rehearsalThe big day has finally arrived. Seven years on from the decision to award Beijing the 2008 Summer Olympics the Games are set to begin with a “big bang” at the opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest.

I’ve only been in Beijing a week so I thought I’d ask a couple of colleagues who live here in the Chinese capital to tell us how they feel now the waiting is (almost) over.

The American who missed the target but found love

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Matt Emmons lost a gold medal with an ill-timed lapse in concentration on his very last shot at the 2004 Olympics yet won a bigger prize a few moments later when his future wife started chatting him up.

The American was one shot from a gold medal in the 50-metre rifle three-position target event when he fired at the wrong target. As he was consoling himself with a beer, Czech shooter Katerina Kurkova, doubling as a TV analyst, offered her commiserations and one thing led to another.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Picture of the day

Russell Boyce writes: Reuters staff photographer Darren Whiteside has captured a moment of quiet and tense preparation at the rowing venue. Silhouetting the Russian women’s Quadruple Sculls team by exposing for the hazy highlights, most of the colour is removed from the image.

By using the light in this way a sense of the tension starting to rise is created as rowlocks are tightened, boats polished and blades checked and double checked.

Swifter, higher, stronger than me

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Posing in front of the ringsWhere else in the world could you spot a Bhutanese archer, a chunky weightlifter from a tiny South Pacific island and a freckled Ukrainian table-tennis champ within one enclosed space?

Journalism takes you to some strange locations, but the athletes’ village at the Olympic Games has to be one of the most bizarre places on earth.

Why Barcelona should let Messi stay in China

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Messi in trainingSpanish clubs are often cast as villains in South America. One minute they are refusing to release players to play for their respective national teams, the next they are accused of exploiting loopholes in transfer regulations to poach young talent without paying a penny.

Earlier this year, Vasco da Gama angrily accused Real Madrid of trying to make an offer to 15-year-old Philippe Coutinho behind their back. The club said that Real had offered a job to the player’s father and the chance to live abroad.

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.

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

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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.

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