Changing China

Giant on the move

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Michael Phelps — one down, seven to go

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Phelps winsMichael Phelps shattered his own world record to win the 400m individual swimming medley in four minutes 03.84 seconds and claim the first of what could be a record-breaking haul of eight gold medals.

The American swimmer, who won six golds at the last Olympics in Athens, has his sights on beating the record of seven golds bagged by Mark Spitz in 1972. The secondary target is four golds to take him ahead of Spitz, Carl Lewis, Finnish middle and long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina, the former Soviet gymnast, in the list of athletes with the most gold medals at the Olympics (currently nine).

Today’s race was one of his two weakest individual events so winning it will give him real hope of at least matching Spitz’s achievement.

Do you think he can beat it? He looked extremely comfortable both in the heats, when he broke what was the Olympic record, and in Sunday’s final, when he blew everyone away.

Day one at the Olympics

The opening day of real competition at the Olympic Games produced seven gold medals, two of them for China and one each for the United States, South Korea, Romania, Spain and Czech Republic.

There was a pall cast over the day’s sporting events, however, as a Chinese man stabbed to death the father-in-law of a U.S. Olympic coach at a Beijing tourist spot before taking his own life.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Picture of the day

Russell Boyce writes: Rome-based photographer Stefano Rellandini has captured the joy of winning and the agony of coming so close to that precious gold medal, but just falling short.

Spain’s Samuel Sanchez covers his head in ecstasy after winning the men’s road race gold while Davide Rebellin (2nd R) of Italy and Fabian Cancellara (R) of Switzerland can only look on in despair.

Do athletes gain or lose from stripping off for the cameras?

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Amanda BeardMore and more athletes are baring all for the cameras, something which can help give them more marketing clout in a competitive marketplace and perhaps help fund their careers while they are on the field, in the pool, and afterwards.

With the Olympics underway U.S. swimmer Amanda Beard, high jumper Amy Acuff and figure skater Katarina Witt are all appearing in a special Olympic spread in the August edition of Playboy. American swimmer Dara Torres is featured in men’s mag Maxim and Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice in FHM.

Watching China bring home its first Olympic gold

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Chen celebratesWeightlifting 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.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

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Lucy1Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was my nickname yesterday.

My Olympic opening ceremony endurance test began with an 8am call to be on the roof of the Bird’s Nest stadium for a meeting of photographers. I began my first of three climbs through the maze of steep, narrow catwalks with IOC pool photographers from AP, Getty, AFP and Xinhua. On either side of the path were sheets of glass through which the colored lights of the stadium are projected.

We were told to wear fireproof suits, helmets and climbing harnesses over our clothes. The Chinese fireworks technicians on the roof had sensibly chosen to wear t-shirts and shorts.

Shooting’s love story gets an even happier ending

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Family affairIt’s not every day you see an Olympic athlete wearing hunting gear put down her rifle halfway through an event, stroll into the crowd, chat with a nice-looking young man for a few minutes — and then see the two start kissing like high school students who have just fallen in love.

But that’s exactly what happened at the Olympic shooting venue today — in front of about 2,000 spectators and scores of happy photographers whose rapid-fire clicking echoed through the hall. Was it love doping? Was it allowed? Was it even good for her?

Watching human rites

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Hu Jintao and George BushIn the end they came of course. Remember all that talk about leaders boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games over China’s ties with the government of Sudan or its crackdown on Tibetan rioters?

Well, when the lavish ceremony got underway in the Bird’s Nest stadium on Friday night, some 80 leaders and royals were watching, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had threatened not to turn up.

Bush volleyball becomes an Olympic sport

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Bush plays volleyball

U.S. President George W. Bush did what most people would do on a sticky day and took some time out at the beach on Saturday. The beach volleyball, that is.

The United States are favourite in both the men’s and women’s tournament and the president popped by to wish them good luck. He was not expecting to be made to actually play, nor to be proffered a pert buttock to pat.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Opening ceremony

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.

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