Giant on the move
With sensitivities running high among Beijing officials who promised a Green Olympics, including clear skies, any suggestion that the air quality is actually less than clear has caused some hurt feelings among the hosts.
It’s a prickly issue, because some athletes are limiting their time in Beijing, while four American track cyclists arrived yesterday in black face masks.
In fact, weather conditions have run the gamut in the final weeks ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony — from delightful to downright awful — and that has revealed a sharp contrast in the terms many foreign journalists use and those used by Chinese officials and media, who cite a wide range of terms but generally avoid admitting there’s actually any pollution.
These include terms translated as “fog”, “haze”, “static breeze”, “adverse weather”, “sauna” conditions, “temperature inversion”, “cloudy days”, “dark days” and of course “blue sky days”.
For Italian weightlifter Giorgio de Luca, for example, doping is out of the question but coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional drink are all fine.
There was a classic moment at a media conference with 100 metres world record holder Usain Bolt today. Bolt’s coach told Reuters last week that the Jamaican would run the 100m as well as the 200m but he seemed unaware of the fact on Tuesday.
“I still have to decide,” he said, before being informed of his coach’s comment.
Forget Olympic fever. Nothing beats panda-monium.
The “Olympic pandas” at Beijing Zoo really do drive the crowds wild — even Germany’s beloved polar bear star Knut would be hard pressed to match the panda adoration sweeping the nation.
When the eight pandas in the Olympic Pavilion strut their stuff at feeding time, mothers rush to get a picture of their child with China’s national symbol in the background.
Loaded with outrageous talent, the United States men’s basketball team insist they will be checking egos at the door at the Beijing Olympics.
Boasting Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and its leading scorer, the Americans are favourites to win gold, although 2004 Athens gold medallists Argentina and world champions Spain will push them all the way.
Asian negotiation techniques have brought Westerners to their knees ever since Taoist sage Laozi said that soft and fluid water wears away the hardest rock. The deadliest weapon in the boardrooms of companies from Tokyo to Beijing: a long, inscrutable silence.
So who wins in a stand-off between Chinese Olympic volunteers (“nothing is as soft and yielding as water, and yet it conquers that which is hard and unyielding” – Laozi) and Japanese reporters (“my heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes” – Zen monk Soyen Shaku)?
The envelope, somewhat crumpled in the hands of a female admirer waiting excitedly in the Beijing airport arrivals hall, bore a simple message: “To Michael Phelps, you have to look at.”
Let’s face it, the chances of the American swimming celebrity ever looking at the contents were never going to be good.
There was good news for Britain on Monday as Paula Radcliffe talked up her chances of being fit enough to run the marathon at the Beijing Games.
“I’m racing unless my leg breaks down,” Radcliffe, 34, told reporters four days before the start of the Olympics and 13 days before the women’s race on August 17.
We’ve given our blog a new name to go with its fresh focus on the Games, now that the bulk of our team of reporters, photographers and TV crews have assembled in Beijing.
Our reporters are blogging regularly with news and views from the greatest show on earth and we’ll be showcasing the pick of reports from Reuters and around the web.
Olympic organisers are praying that it doesn’t rain on the athletes’ parade at next Friday’s opening ceremony, but a little drizzle might in fact add some fizzle to the lavish show.
“The lighting effects will be more beautiful with a bit of rain,” said Yves Pepin, a French hi-tech wizard, who is a senior member of the creative team for the 3-1/2 hour extravaganza.