Changing China

Giant on the move

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China hits home run

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China’s upset 4-1 win over Taiwan in the first round of the World Baseball Classic earlier this month was a small but important step for a team that battles for recognition and funding.

Although trounced by Japan and South Korea in earlier matches, the politically tinged match renewed China’s bragging rights over the self-ruled island, which Beijing declares as its own territory and has vowed to bring back to mainland rule, by force if necessary.

The loss was a bitter pill for Taiwan to swallow, which was also beaten by China at the Olympic Games, and has a far deeper baseball following stemming from U.S. aid and soft power flowing into the island in the decades after the Chinese civil war (1945-1949).

“We have to accept it, and the fact that China have made great steps in baseball,” said Taiwan coach Yeh Chih-Shien.

Follow that, London!

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A victory celebration

Sebastian Coe says London is undaunted at having to follow Beijing when it hosts the next Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

“It’s a massive responsibility,” the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games told a news conference on the eve of the closing ceremony of the Paralympics.

Snapshot Beijing, 7: Bolt breaks the unbreakable world record

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Bolt breaks the 200 world record

My abiding memory from these Games  will be watching Usain Bolt give everything he had to break a world record most of us had thought unbreakable.

Michael Johnson’s time of 19.32 in the 200 metres had never been seriously challenged before the Jamaican sprinter, a headline writer’s dream, decided it was finally time to get down to some serious work.

A pleasant surprise in Beijing

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Volunteers stand near the targetsI’d expected the worst when I got to Beijing three weeks ago. I remember what it was like in another Communist country — East Germany with its suppressed and scared people coupled with deplorable service and shoddy quality everywhere you turned.

That’s roughly what I had in mind for China, although I knew Beijing itself would certainly be a more prosperous and modern place than East Germany, and with a bit of window dressing for the Olympics.

Snapshot Beijing, 6: Michael Phelps wins eight golds

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Phelps in full flow

Michael Phelps trouncing his rivals is always something fantastic to see, and here in Beijing it took your breath away to watch him so often leave everyone else for dead.

But the races which stick most vividly in my mind are the two in which gold appeared to have escaped him.

Beijing bustling again already

As Olympic visitors started to worry on Sunday about airport return traffic, cars in Beijing were being parked on sidewalks again.

Night clubs were open after an anti-prostitution blitz a few weeks ago. Once banished vendors scrummed on sidewalks to sell Olympic pins, the collection of which had grown to a competitive roar among locals close to the Games.

Olympic fever hits London

Riding a wave of sporting euphoria after its best Olympic performance in a century, Britain accepted Olympic host-nation status from China on Sunday with a huge street party in front of Buckingham Palace.

Owen Wyatt catches up with Olympic gold medallists Michael Phelps and Bradley Wiggins as London throbbed with 40,000 partygoers at a live concert to start the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

Snapshot Beijing, 5: Fair play gets forgotten

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Taekwondo kick to the head

It was everything the event was not supposed to be. The Olympics should embody sportsmanship and fair play. Taekwondo is about discipline and civility in a fight.

Unfortunately Cuba’s Angel Vaoldia Matos forgot about both in the heat of his bronze medal bout.

Will China change post-Olympics?

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torch goes outThe million dollar question on the minds of many: Will China change after the Olympics?

I’ve worked intermittently in Beijing for 11 years and in Taipei for 15, but analysing the world’s most populous nation, and an opaque one for that matter, is like a blind man feeling an elephant.

Snapshot Beijing, 4: The greatest dive in Olympic history

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Mitcham dives

The Water Cube was almost silent as a slight blonde man who two years earlier was not even diving leapt off the ten metre platform, twisted and somersaulted through the air and slid into the water with just the slightest of splashes.

Matthew Mitcham resurfaced to an explosion of applause and as the judges’ scores came up his smile of delight dissolved into tears of disbelief.

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