Giant on the move
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.
Britain’s tally of 16 golds is their best since 1908 and puts them third in the medals table (as you’ll see if you glance to the right) ahead of the likes of Russia, Australia and Germany.
Kate Holton takes a look here at Britain’s Olympic renaissance, following the embarrassment of winning just one gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. Money has had a lot to do with it, with so many athletes now benefiting from National Lottery funding, but it has created a potential problem heading into the 2012 London Games.
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…
“Well that’s it,” a journalist friend said when he phoned me at the Bird’s Nest a couple of hours after Liu Xiang hobbled out of the Beijing Olympics. “We might as well pack our backs and go home.”
We won’t, of course, but for us China-based reporters, this was always going to be the big one: the race that defined the Olympics.
I was in the Olympic stadium in Athens the night Liu won the 110 metres hurdles gold. Then it was a mild diversion, a tremendous performance from an unlikely source. He had barely finished his lap of honour, though, before his title defence in Beijing was being written about. It was too neat a line to miss.
Since then, I’ve written thousands of words about the skinny man from Shanghai with a penchant for karaoke and braised pork.
I was there last year, too, when he won his first world title on a hot and humid night in Osaka, his favourite track.
By then I’d been inside the Bird’s Nest and even as I pondered the raw concrete bowl with mud beneath my feet where the track would lie, I was thinking about how it would look and sound packed to its twisted steel rafters with a fevered Chinese crowd cheering Liu on.
We did see him run in the stadium at a test event earlier this year, but, to adapt a line from an American politician, I know Olympic finals and that was no Olympic final.
After his injury earlier this season, and his disappearance behind closed doors for a couple of months, I can’t even say I’m even surprised by what has happened.
I have always felt sorry for Liu because of the pressure he was under and today also felt sympathy for his coach Sun Haiping, who has always come across as a thoroughly decent man.
But rather selfishly, my main emotion is disappointment. We now know almost for certain that we will never hear the sound of 91,000 people celebrating an Olympic gold medal for one of their own in what must be one of the world’s finest stadiums.
PHOTO (TOP): Liu Xiang of China grimaces in pain during his warm-up before the start of his 110m hurdles heat in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
If so, he would have something in common with many host team athletes, who are big on the number 8 because in Chinese it sounds like a word for prosperity (fa). That’s why the Olympic Games opened on the 8th day of the 8th month at 8pm.
I’m talking about the way young children are chosen at an early age and groomed for success, often at the expense of their childhood and their education.
Facts may be facts.
The fact is, photographers and videocameramen swarmed the vehicle taking images that will travel the world. These pictures were all taken by Reuters Reinhard Krause.
I’ve been a China watcher for much longer than I’ve been a journalist — Chinese language, literature, history and politics were my passions and the objects of my academic study before I ever found my vocation. And for a watcher of modern Chinese politics, few texts in my 30 years in the field have been as important as the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.
With a circulation of three to four million, it is one of the world’s biggest papers; with its direct ties to the top Party leaders, it has long been the way official policy shifts have been announced or hinted at.
The Olympic basketball match between China and the United States just ended with the U.S. pulling away to win 101-70 in what they say was the most-watched event sporting event in China’s history.
It’ll be no surprise if the estimates are right and a billion or so people around the world were tuned in to watch what was after all an irresistible contest – a meeting between the “Reds” and the “Red-White-and-Blues” and one laden with symbols.
China might once have been known as the ‘bicycle kingdom’, but if the scene along the women’s road race today is anything to go by, I wouldn’t hold my breath that the Olympics will inspire many Chinese people to become fans of competitive cycling.
A sizeable crowd gathered along an intersection near the historic Lama Temple in the centre of town to watch the racers go by this afternoon — some spectators who came specifically for the event, others passersby who were forced by the roadblock to wait and watch, many of them on bicycles themselves.
Slogans, or kouhao, often sit better in the Chinese language where they are made up of fewer characters than the more cumbersome English translations.