Changing China

Giant on the move

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How to diet like a weightlifter — eat lots and don’t exercise


Weightlifting facilitiesLike many 19-year-olds, German Julia Rohde needs to watch her weight – but her aim is to squeeze into the perfect competition category rather than the perfect dress.

With her massive shoulders and bulging biceps and thighs, the petite blonde usually weighs in at 55kg, a tad too heavy for the 53kg category she’ll be competing in on Sunday. Not that she’ll be going hungry.

In a sport where every pound counts because it means extra lifting power, her crash diet is still generous by most standards: bread, cold meat, muesli and yoghurt for breakfast; meat, salad and fruit for lunch; meat for dinner; and chocolate if she feels the pounds are dropping off too quickly.

And unlike most dieters, she won’t be trying to walk off the excess kilos between training sessions. Under her strict pre-competition regime, any unscheduled exercise that could strain her legs is, well, verboten. Which means she’ll only be allowed to move between her room, the training centre and the Olympic canteen.

Avoid your cliches in the land of yin and yang


Yin and yangColumnist and internet pundit Kaiser Kuo, a long-time Beijing resident bracing for the arrival of 30,000 journalists for the Olympics, has drawn up a fun list of tired old phrases the media should avoid while in Beijing. No more city of ying and yang, no more sprawling metropolis of startling juxtapositions. Only use “Great Leap Forward” when covering the triple jump or pole vault. Cut the puns about Wu and Wen. They’re heavy-handed and offensive. All cliches about “Those exotic Chinese — they’ll eat anything” should be banned even when doing dog stew and donkey meat stories. Pollution. He believes the coverage is becoming more choking than the smog itself, especially after three sunny days in a row in Beijing. Great Firewall of China. How many times have you heard that one? His pet hate is “Coming Out Party” to describe China’s big moment on the world stage. The phrase really irks expatriate journalists working in Beijing. They have heard it 1,000 times. Taxi drivers are fun to quote around the world from New York to London and Beijing. But journalists should be rationed to one quote per Olympics.

Any other suggestions for tired and overused phrases about China? Let us know in the comments… and if you spot any in the media please send in a link. We’re quite prepared to name and shame. 

Prettifying Beijing


Workers in Beijing

Amid the frantic beautification efforts in the run-up to the Games’ Aug. 8 start, some Beijing neighbourhoods have gone through amazing transformations — sometimes literally overnight — so that the city can put its best face forward.

My own neighbourhood near Workers Stadium, where some soccer events will be held, is one that has received special attention.

The Ju basketball dynasty



While based in China as a chief photographer in the early 1990s I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a sports journalist and in turn an entire family with a remarkable basketball legacy. So much so that official government film documentaries were produced highlighting their sporting achievements. Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces have all competed at college level, professionally or on a national team.

My journalist friend’s accomplishments were impressive. Starting at the age of 2-1/2 her parents had to place her, for the next three years, in the national sports committee’s boarding kindergarten. It was a place where China’s sporting elite could leave their children while they competed for the Party and national pride.

Blue and white brigade attend to every Olympic need


Volunteers play with the mascot

Visitors arriving bleary-eyed and bad-tempered to China after gruelling long-distance flights are encountering a veritable people’s army of astonishingly polite and disciplined volunteers who attend to our every whim and need.

When I got off the plane after a jetlag-inducing flight from East Africa, I found myself shepherded, as in a dream, from post-to-post by an array of smiling students. ‘This way for your Olympic fast-track channel, sir … your accreditation … your bus … your room … your complimentary umbrella.’ Some were already fluent in English, others shyly practising newly-learned phrases, crushed if I didn’t understand first time.

Adventures in Chinglish


Chinglish T-ShirtsWhatever happened to the exploding shrimp? Do you know the way to Racist Park?

The Beijing authorities have been working long and hard in the run-up to the Olympics to stamp out Chinglish — but examples still abound all round town of this unique mix of Mandarin and English.

It’s fun checking out the slogans on T-shirts to find the finest example of strangulated language.

Haze clears but doping cloud darkens


Baldini in a file photoI flew into Beijing today and was pretty surprised to find clear blue skies. Smog? What smog?

Maybe it will last, maybe not, but it’s clear that the issue of drugs in sport is not going away. Italian fencer Andrea Baldini became the latest athlete to fail a doping test in the run-up to the Games, as it was revealed on Friday that the gold medal hopeful had tested positive for the diuretic furosemide in Kiev last month.

Smogwatch (1)


After a promising start in the immediate aftermath of the “odd-even” car restrictions and factory closures on July 20th, the air quality in Beijing has slowly deteriorated, as this combination picture shows.

Beijing's polluted skies 

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says data shows that improvements have been made, but this is surely not the backdrop that organisers had in mind for the Olympics.

Finally, to live the Olympic dream



You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel for Dirk Nowitzki. After 12 years of spending his summer holidays playing basketball for Germany in the hope of one day making it to the Olympics, the Dallas Mavericks forward led his country into the tournament when they got third place — and the last ticket to Beijing — in a qualifying tournament on Sunday in Athens. 

Nowitzki cried tears of joy after Germany beat Puerto Rico 96-82 in the match for third place after they had lost to Croatia on Saturday night. He  buried his face in a towel while walking off the court after scoring 32 points and cried and then sat in the locker-room and wept  some more as journalists watched and waited for the chance to talk to him. “I needed to be alone for a bit at first,” Nowitzki said later.

Revealed: “The Panda Reporter”

fialapanda.jpgBy Mike Fiala

The biggest international sporting event Beijing and China hosted prior to the Olympics was the 1990 Asian Games. China dominated the medal count, winning almost twice as many as their nearest rival.

And Pan Pan, the game’s Panda mascot, was everywhere. One of the official sponsors distributed Pan Pan decals to the media showing the official mascot in various XI Asiad sporting poses such as boxing, archery, wrestling, etc. With a little imagination, and a pair of scissors, people would remove Pan Pan’s head and apply the mascot’s sporting themes to their credential photo.panpan21.jpg