Changing China

Giant on the move

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Oxana’s battle to save her son’s life

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German gymnast Oxana Chusovitina is getting ready for her fifth Olympics for a third country in August. That would be by itself unusual enough under normal circumstances.  

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The fact that the 32-year-old — who began her career for the Soviet Union before its demise and then for her native Uzbekistan before moving to Germany — is twice the age of some of her rivals in a sport long the domain of teenagers is another feat on its own.

But what makes Chusovitina’s tale even more incredible is that her ambition was fired by a battle to save the life of her son, Alisher. He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia at the age of 3 in 2002. There were no specialist oncology facilities in Uzbekistan and her family had no health insurance. So with the speedy help of some friends  in the gymnastics world from Cologne she moved to Germany, learned German, and eventually became a German citizen in 2006.

“There was no child oncology in Uzbekistan and in Russia you don’t have a chance because there are already so many on the waiting lists,” Chusovitina said in an interview after a high-energy training session in Cologne under the watchful eye of her coach, Shanna Polyakova. “I’d known Shanna and Peter Brueggemann at Team Toyota Cologne for a long time and they organised everything. They found a spot in hospital for me and fortunately we came here.”

Politics and the Olympics over the years

WASHINGTON – The Olympics are supposed to be all about sports, not politics, right?

Wrong.

Although the Games began in 1896 with the hope that sporting events between nations could bring about a more peaceful world, they have not escaped politics.

Do injuries make you insane?

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Balazs Koranyi was a semi-finallist in the 800 metres at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters.  

For an athlete, the Olympics are a bigger gamble than putting money on the zero at a roulette table. And when you take a big gamble, you’re bound to do dumb things.

More on China’s ’08 generation

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The Beijing bureau today continued its look at China’s ’08 generation, 19 years after the crushing of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and 64 days before the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Thousands of job seekers flock to a job fair in Tianjin municipalityRead Lucy Hornby’s piece about the challenges facing China’s college graduates here

Tiananmen Square – June 4

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A young boy stands in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after attending the flag raising ceremony at dawn

Tiananmen Square - June 4, 2008. 

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Pictures by David Gray. 

Nineteen years after the crushing of the pro-democracy protests and 65 days before the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games, check out Chris Buckley’s feature on  the ’08 generation and this video report on China’s new nationalism.

Beijing Bellies

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After a disarmingly cool Beijing spring, summer hit the Olympics host city like a hammer this past weekend, marking the psychological final stretch to the Games.Across the city, kites fill the skies, cold drink sales pick up and bicycle ice cream vendors pedal the streets and lanes to provide relief from the pounding heat.

But if there is anything that defines summer in China’s capital when the mercury rises, its the near ubiquitous outpouring of Beijing bellies.

A tale of two stadiums

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Evacuated people rest at a sports stadium which was turned into a temporary shelter in MianyangThis weekend, Beijing inaugurated the new Bird’s Nest Stadium with the “Good Luck Beijing” track and field event. I attended less than 24 hours after covering the earthquake in Sichuan, and the contrast between sports and rubble was a little hard to digest.

The Bird’s Nest stadium, built for the Olympics, can seat 91,000 fans. The air flows through well, keeping it cool in the muggy Beijing summer. The seats are well-positioned, so the contestants can be seen easily. The screens are visible, the sound-system clear, the lighting strong but not harsh.

Long March to the Bird’s Nest

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Workmen walk on the roof of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium as the Good Luck Beijing China Athletics Open is being heldWatching athletics at the“Bird’s Nest” National Stadium is a dream for many Chinese people but it turned into nightmare for me last weekend.

We set off last Friday to see the titanic building and a relatively low-key athletics meeting mainly contested by young Chinese athletes.

The earthquake and the Olympics

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A soldier carries out relief work as a Beijing Olympics countdown board is seen in the background after an earthquake in BeichuanThe tenor of China’s Olympic year changed dramatically over the past two weeks.

What had been a building crescendo of celebration and national pride turned into an outpouring of grief and support for the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan.

Is there a place for soccer at the Olympics?

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AC Milan’s Kaka reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match against AS Roma in RomeKaka’s dream of helping Brazil win their first Olympic gold medal in soccer has been scuppered by his club AC Milan, who have announced that they will not allow him to play in the tournament in August.

“He is already part of the Brazil national side. The club does not think it is right for Kaka to also be involved in official matches for Brazil’s Olympic team,” the Italian club said in a statement.  

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