Giant on the move
Weightlifting is not the most glamorous Olympic sport. Forget about glitzy endorsement deals, tabloid tell-alls and magazine shoots. This is a world where taciturn men from Belarus and compact women from China win their gold medals in relative obscurity.
But for 67 minutes on Saturday morning, weightlifting had its place in the limelight.
Millions of Chinese had hoped shooter Du Li would win the first gold on offer at the Olympics for her homeland. Du caved in under pressure and failed, leaving the hopes of an entire nation resting on weightlifter Chen Xiexia’s broad shoulders.
Weightlifting competitions progress from the weakest lifters to the strongest, and so we were watching several short women stumble, fall over or collapse under the weight of the barbells when suddenly the news broke that Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic had won the air rifle gold.
Russell Boyce writes: Deciding on a picture of the day from the opening ceremony proved to be harder than I first thought.
The picture has to have the Olympic flame, it has to show the Olympic Rings, it has to show the stadium and part of the opening ceremoy itself and of course it has to show fireworks.
But as if having the Olympic cauldron lit by a “flying” gymnast Li Ning, suspended by wires high above the heads of 91,000 spectators, wasn’t proof enough that even gravity could be conquered by the world’s most populous nation, the government defied the elements as well.
I’m at the Olympics in my role as Editor-in-Chief — that means I’m doing some journalism and some “representational” work as the senior person from Reuters News and Thomson Reuters in Beijing for the Games.
In the representational role, I was invited to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state banquet along with a score of other media leaders — among them News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, the BBC’s Mark Thompson, AP’s Tom Curley, Russia’s Rianovosti’s Chief Editor Svetlana Mironyuk and Dr. Dinh The Huynh, member of Vietnam’s Communist Party Central Committee and Editor-in-Chief of the Nhan Dan newspaper.
Columnist and internet pundit Kaiser Kuo, a long-time Beijing resident bracing for the arrival of 30,000 journalists for the Olympics, has drawn up a fun list of tired old phrases the media should avoid while in Beijing. No more city of ying and yang, no more sprawling metropolis of startling juxtapositions. Only use “Great Leap Forward” when covering the triple jump or pole vault. Cut the puns about Wu and Wen. They’re heavy-handed and offensive. All cliches about “Those exotic Chinese — they’ll eat anything” should be banned even when doing dog stew and donkey meat stories. Pollution. He believes the coverage is becoming more choking than the smog itself, especially after three sunny days in a row in Beijing. Great Firewall of China. How many times have you heard that one? His pet hate is “Coming Out Party” to describe China’s big moment on the world stage. The phrase really irks expatriate journalists working in Beijing. They have heard it 1,000 times. Taxi drivers are fun to quote around the world from New York to London and Beijing. But journalists should be rationed to one quote per Olympics.
Any other suggestions for tired and overused phrases about China? Let us know in the comments… and if you spot any in the media please send in a link. We’re quite prepared to name and shame.
Amid the frantic beautification efforts in the run-up to the Games’ Aug. 8 start, some Beijing neighbourhoods have gone through amazing transformations — sometimes literally overnight — so that the city can put its best face forward.
My own neighbourhood near Workers Stadium, where some soccer events will be held, is one that has received special attention.
While based in China as a chief photographer in the early 1990s I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a sports journalist and in turn an entire family with a remarkable basketball legacy. So much so that official government film documentaries were produced highlighting their sporting achievements. Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces have all competed at college level, professionally or on a national team.
My journalist friend’s accomplishments were impressive. Starting at the age of 2-1/2 her parents had to place her, for the next three years, in the national sports committee’s boarding kindergarten. It was a place where China’s sporting elite could leave their children while they competed for the Party and national pride.
The biggest international sporting event Beijing and China hosted prior to the Olympics was the 1990 Asian Games. China dominated the medal count, winning almost twice as many as their nearest rival.
And Pan Pan, the game’s Panda mascot, was everywhere. One of the official sponsors distributed Pan Pan decals to the media showing the official mascot in various XI Asiad sporting poses such as boxing, archery, wrestling, etc. With a little imagination, and a pair of scissors, people would remove Pan Pan’s head and apply the mascot’s sporting themes to their credential photo.
First the Chinese authorities provided foreigners with a list of dos and don’ts for when they visit the games. Now Human Rights Watch has got into the act, providing foreign journalists with its own booklet giving advice on how to report out of China.
The Reporters’ Guide gives useful information on what do if police detain you (don’t hit them), what to do if your reporting rights are not respected (complain) and what to do to prevent anyone snooping on your stories or emails (one suggestion — use gmail and add an ‘s’ at the end of http in the URL).