Changing China

Giant on the move

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Snapshot Beijing, 2: Matthias Steiner

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Steiner

Continuing our look at the golden moments from the Games, Sophie Hardach tells us what it was like watching the heart-wrenching story of weightlifter Matthias Steiner unfold.

Sophie writes:

After covering 14 Olympic weightlifting competitions, I sat down for the super-heavyweight contest knowing that it would be the most spectacular of them all. In the previous contests, I had seen hulking strongmen in tears, had watched lifters crash to the floor under the barbell, had heard caveman howls and primal screams.

Now all that macho breast-beating would reach a climax, with 150kg-contenders trying to snatch more than 200kg. What I did not expect to see in that testosterone-filled competition hall was a moment of heart-breaking tenderness.

I had heard the story of 25-year-old German lifter Matthias Steiner, whose wife, Susann, died after a car crash last year, and my heart went out to him as I watched him fail not just one but two attempts.

Story of day 15: Mitcham’s amazing dive

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Mitcham dives

Matthew Mitcham did two surprising things in Beijing. He scooped a gold medal from the apparently invincible Chinese diving team and told anyone who asked that he is gay.

Mitcham broke down in tears after a nearly perfect last dive edged him above the Chinese favourite into top place. It was the eighth and last medal in a sport that the host nation utterly dominates and was expected to sweep.

Does soccer belong at the Olympics?

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Messi

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he does not see any need to change the format of the Olympic soccer tournament, which is restricted to under-23 teams and allows each to field up to three overage players.

Many people, however, feel that soccer is something of an unwelcome gatecrasher at the Games and that not bringing its top players is rather like turning up at the party with a bottle of cheap plonk.

Spare a thought for He in gymnastics row (Update)

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He KexinWhatever the results of the investigation into the date of birth of He Kexin, China’s double Olympic gold medallist, I hope we don’t lose sight of the fact that even in the event of any subterfuge the gymnast herself would not be the one to blame.

The International Olympic Committee has asked the gymnastics federation to check He’s date of birth of following claims that she might be under the minimum age to compete.

A costly kick to the head

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A kick to the head

Cuba’s Angel Valodia Matos was banned for life from taekwondo on Saturday after he kicked the match referee in the head in his bronze medal bout.

Matos’s coach was also banned for the behaviour that the official said was in “strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympic Games”.

Beijing’s favourite Olympic happy snap

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Holding the torchRemember those jolly tourist pictures you took of yourself in Italy where you were pretending to prop up the leaning tower of Pisa? Here’s the Beijing equivalent.

You stand in front of the Bird’s Nest stadium, hold up your hand and by a miracle of foreshortening appear to grip the vast cornetto-shaped torch burning on the roof of the athletics venue.

China assured of first place in medals table

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Zhang YiningThere’s been a lively discussion, here and elsewhere, about which version of the medals table is a better way of ranking countries’ achievements at the Olympics.

Reuters goes with the “gold standard”, if you like, which has put China out in front almost from the start. Other, mainly American outlets go with the “total number of medals” tally that puts the U.S. on top.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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combo shot

Rickey Rogers writes: A combination photograph as Germans Christian Gille and Thomasz Wylenzek crash into a buoy after winning silver in the C2 1000 m final, gets the vote of Picture of the Day.

What seems like good fun as one team member drags another into the water, suddenly appears to be a real-life drama judging by their situation as they are saved by a rescue boat.

Is this the most fun you can have on two legs?

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Bolt fliesJamaica’s sprinters have pulled off a remarkable trick at the Beijing Games by making running look like the most enjoyable thing you can do standing up.

While speedsters from other nations have looked tense on the track at the Bird’s Nest, Usain Bolt and the women who swept the medals in the 100 metres have clearly been enjoying themselves.

A weird and wonderful water ballet

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synchronised swimming

When I told my editors I wanted to cover synchronised swimming at the Olympics they laughed. When I said it again they looked slightly embarrassed, like I was pushing a bad joke too far.

I had to ask several more times but I finally convinced them and two weeks later, I was watching two sequin-strewn contenders splash around in perfect union to an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black.

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