Changing China

Giant on the move

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One world, one dream…

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Dallas’ Nowitzki grabs a rebound in their NBA game in Dallas, TexasDirk Nowitzki says he’s been dreaming about going to the Olympics since he saw the 1988 Games on TV as a 10-year-old boy.

He’s spent the last 10 summers in the NBA off-season working hard to help Germany qualify for the Olympics again for the first time since 1992 — and the Dallas Mavericks’ all-star from Germany looked completely shattered when his team came up heartbreakingly short in the 2003 European Championships, the qualifier for the 2004 Olympics. 

Nowitzki and Germany again failed to qualify directly for the Olympics at last year’s European Championships as well — but they still could get tickets to Beijing if they finish in the top three at a 12-team tournament set for mid-July.  

It’s not like I really know how Nowitzki feels because I don’t. I’ve never been in the NBA nor have I played for Germany or any other country.

My son, the terrorist

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Policemen attend the rehearsal of a military drill in TaiyuanThat security would be ramped up in China before the Beijing Olympics was to be expected and is entirely normal.

My abiding memory of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – just a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. — is of removing and putting back on my heavy winter boots several times a day at security checkpoints.

What’s that on top of the Bird’s Nest?

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Photographer David Gray took his weekly trip down to the Bird’s Nest today and fortunately after couple of horribly polluted days, the skies were relatively clear. 

On top of the ’nest’ he captured this inflatable structure.

 Bird’s Nest

Bird's Nest

The stadium is now effectively shut down to visitors because of the secrecy surrounding the preparations for the opening ceremony, which everyone is expecting to be a spectacular affair.   

Explorer running with the torch

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Pupils raise their handmade model torches of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to celebrate torch relay in China at a primary school in HuzhouWong How Man is one of China’s best known and most active explorers, whose accomplishments include an expedition that discovered a new source of the Yangtze, China’s longest river.   

More recently the Hong Kong native and his group, China Exploration & Research Society, have taken on a number of conservation projects in Tibetan areas of China — work that helped him land a spot as an Olympic torch runner last week.

Bach on Beijing

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DOSB president Bach addresses the media during a news conference in FrankfurtI caught up with IOC vice president Thomas Bach for an interview the other day in his Berlin office.

Bach has been one of the most eloquent opponents of any boycott of the Summer Olympics in Beijing — leading a lightning pro-Games campaign earlier this year when tensions in Tibet flared.

Never mind the pollution, it’s the Olympic Games

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Cathy FreemanFormer Olympic champion Cathy Freeman, the darling of the Sydney Games in 2000, was in Beijing at the weekend with a few words of advice for Liu Xiang.

I also asked her about pollution and, although she is now long-retired, I think her reply might still reflect the attitude of many of the top athletes coming to Beijing. 

“Vicious cycle” of bike thefts

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A man rides a bicycle in Beijing’s central business districtChina has appealed to residents to take “green” transport ahead of the Olympics, casting the city’s pledge to provide clean air and unclogged roads as a civic “duty”.      

I used to take green transport to work, cycling a round trip of 14 miles five days a week in the cooler months, and three days a week in the summer.

The open secret of doping in sport

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Technician carries tray of test tubes at Winter Olympics’ anti-doping laboratory in San Luigi hospitalBalazs Koranyi was an Olympic semi-finalist at the 1996 and 2000 Games for Hungary and since 2004 has been a Budapest-based correspondent, covering mainly political and business news. He will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters. 

I was first offered performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, after breaking the Hungarian 800-metre record and making the European championship finals.

Olympic-sized “Guanxi”

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Wang waves goodbye to reporters after closing remarks for the Strategic Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in WashingtonIt’s not often that speeches by Chinese policy makers make you laugh, but that was certainly the case on Wednesday evening when Vice Premier Wang Qishan spoke to an audience of U.S. business leaders after two days of high-level economic talks in Washington.

Speaking off the cuff, Wang had the audience rolling as he delicately broached the subject of the negative publicity surrounding the Olympics, which reached a cresendo earlier this year when riots in Tibet sparked protests along the Olympic torch relay in cities such as London and Paris.

Should athletes be penalized for bad behaviour off the clock?

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nick-darcy.jpgDisgraced Australian swimmer Nick D’Arcy is fighting to save his career and Olympic dream after being banned from the Australian team over an alleged bar room bashing of fellow swimmer Simon Cowley. The 21-year-old butterfly champ has expressed regret overhis actions and promised to stay away from alcohol but it has sparked a debate about whether athletes should be penalized in the pool or on the field for bad behaviour not related to their sport. Are athletes beyond reproach?

An annual survey of sports fans conducted for Sporting News found that a majority of the 1,500 participants — 62 percent of men and 63 percent of women — completely or mostly agreed that “more and more athletes today feel like they are above the law.” About half of the 12-64 year olds polled — 52 percent of men and 49 percent of women — completely and mostly agree that “athletes are less accessible and approachable today than ever before”.

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