Giant on the move
For those of us who live in Beijing, the air during the Olympics has been a real treat. It smells sweet and breathes in nicely. Even better, I feel like I can see forever — buildings that are more than a mile away, even the purple outline of the Fragrant Hills to the west of the city.
There were a lot of worries about the Beijing smog expressed by athletes and foreign journalists before the Games began. But for the last week, there has been a lovely salmon tinge to the clouds — real clouds, not smog! — in the evenings.
All this is due to Beijing having booted well over a million cars off the streets, idled construction sites, and closed the worst polluting factories for hundreds of kilometers while requiring the not-quite-so-bad plants to install and actually use emissions reducing equipment.
The weather also helped. After a hot, muggy start to the Games when a heavy fog bank sat smack over the city, some rain and a breeze have cleared things out. The numbers of days where the air quality is rated excellent have soared.
There was a joke going around the Olympics (until yesterday evening) about how none of Britain’s gold medals had been won by people standing up. Perfect for the British, no? We do like a nice sit down and a cup of tea after all.
Christine Ohuruogu ended that odd little sequence when she followed the sailors, swimmers, cyclists and rowers on to the podium to collect her gold for the women’s 400 metres.
My mother back in the United States thinks I’m having a great time in Beijing. She envisions me casually dropping into see the swimming and the athletics, having a relaxed lunch, and then strolling over to the next venue to catch another big event in the evening. Let me give you a run through of one day I had near the start of the Games…
7:00 - Wake up too late for breakfast, rush through ablutions and run for bus. Clear airport-style security. Get on bus for 20-minute ride. Transfer to second bus for 40-minute ride to shooting venue.
Tune in to the latest podcast hear about Yelena Isinbaeva’s pole vault magic, open water swimming’s dirty little secret and why you should never let an Australian come home with souvenirs for the kids.
I’m joined by Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Simon Evans and John “David Gedge” Chalmers for seven minutes of sunshine from grey Beijing. Enjoy…
Americans looking at the medals table to the right of this blog, or on the official Games website, might be surprised to see the host country topping the chart with 39 gold medals and 68 in total.
The New York Times website, meanwhile, has the United States on top with a chart-leading 73 medals in total, 23 of them gold.
After watching the men’s nail biting, down-to-the-wire 20 km race walk, I’m still not convinced this sport belongs in the Olympics.
Athletics is about running fast, throwing far and jumping high. Walking is about twisting your body and trying to go fast while trying to go slow. It’s like swimming in a straitjacket.
If you have been to the daily Olympic press briefing by Games organisers you’d think there was a war on around the venues and not a well-run Olympic Games, packed with memorable moments.
While the Games, on a sporting level, have been a smooth operation so far, with records set and ecstatic crowds, inside the press conference room it is a different story.
The men do 40 km over 160 laps, the women 25km over 100 laps. That’s the easy part.
Gary Hershorn writes: Without question the story of the day is Liu Xiang walking off the track.
When the unexpected story happens in front of you it’s a stressful few minutes as you try and understand what is going on and then decide how to illustrate the story. The most important thing to remember is that we are journalists and we must find a way to show what happened.
After the shock of Liu Xiang’s departure from the Games through injury, fans in the Bird’s Nest were given a golden moment to compensate at least slightly, as the peerless Yelena Isinbayeva broke her own world record in the pole vault.
The Russian made sure of the gold medal with just two jumps before returning to have a crack at raising her own best mark. After missing twice, she cleared 5.05 metres at the third attempt — with plenty to spare, it must be said.