Changing China

Giant on the move

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How to diet like a weightlifter — eat lots and don’t exercise


Weightlifting facilitiesLike many 19-year-olds, German Julia Rohde needs to watch her weight – but her aim is to squeeze into the perfect competition category rather than the perfect dress.

With her massive shoulders and bulging biceps and thighs, the petite blonde usually weighs in at 55kg, a tad too heavy for the 53kg category she’ll be competing in on Sunday. Not that she’ll be going hungry.

In a sport where every pound counts because it means extra lifting power, her crash diet is still generous by most standards: bread, cold meat, muesli and yoghurt for breakfast; meat, salad and fruit for lunch; meat for dinner; and chocolate if she feels the pounds are dropping off too quickly.

And unlike most dieters, she won’t be trying to walk off the excess kilos between training sessions. Under her strict pre-competition regime, any unscheduled exercise that could strain her legs is, well, verboten. Which means she’ll only be allowed to move between her room, the training centre and the Olympic canteen.

Avoid your cliches in the land of yin and yang


Yin and yangColumnist 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. 

Prettifying Beijing


Workers in Beijing

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.

China unveils new swimsuit – but at $118K, don’t swim in it!


chinese-cossie.jpgAs a revolutionary bodysuit divides Olympics swimmers into the haves and have-nots ahead of the Games, a Chinese designer has unveiled another new swimsuit – but this one won’t be worn in the Olympic pool, or any pool for that matter. The costume was described as possibly the most expensive ever made, valued at 800,000 yuan ($117,647), according to a report in The China Daily.

 The sparkling suit was unveiled by top Chinese model Mo Wandan on behalf of Hong Kong swimsuit brand Hosa, which the newspaper said was a sponsor of the Beijing National Aquatics Centre or “Water Cube” complex where the Olympic swimming will be held. Designer Huang Yinyun said it took more than a month to create the costume which has Swarovski crystals glued into shining “Water Cube” patterns. 

An unfortunate phobia — open water swimmer is scared of fish

How can an Olympic swimmer be afraid of fish? That’s like a skier being scared of heights or a boxer who faints at the sign of blood.

It may sound fishy, but it’s true, apparently. According to a report at Briton David Davies, a marathon swimmer who will compete in the 10-km event in a man-made lake, says he has a phobia about being in the water with big fish.

Olympic soccer is a serious business — just ask Messi


Messi arrivesThe Olympic soccer tournament, which starts next Thursday, has enjoyed unprecedented publicity in the run-up to Beijing, unwittingly helped by the belligerent attitude of the European clubs.
In their attempts to avoid releasing Argentina striker Lionel Messi for the Games, Barcelona helped raise the profile of the competition to a level it has rarely enjoyed in the past.

Barcelona finally relented last Wednesday when FIFA reinforced its ruling that clubs must release their under-23 players, although the Spanish club have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports and will demand the player fly back from China if there is a ruling in their favour.

Exploding stomachs slip through language police’s net


Exploding stomachLet’s face it, if moves by Beijing’s Government and Tourism Bureaus to take the Chinglish off menus and road signs as we reported in an earlier story really worked, dining out in Beijing wouldn’t be half as fun.

Colleagues eating at a Beijing restaurant in the final countdown to the Aug. 8 start of the Games came up with the following interesting dishes which diners can order at their peril:         

The Beijing Olympics in Lego


Bird’s nest in Lego

I know this has been out for a while, but with just a few days to go to the start of the Games I couldn’t resist a link to this exhibition of the 2008 Olympics in Lego.

The Bird’s Nest looks fantastic… Must have taken Olympic levels of patience and dedication. Hats off.

The Ju basketball dynasty



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.

Blue and white brigade attend to every Olympic need


Volunteers play with the mascot

Visitors arriving bleary-eyed and bad-tempered to China after gruelling long-distance flights are encountering a veritable people’s army of astonishingly polite and disciplined volunteers who attend to our every whim and need.

When I got off the plane after a jetlag-inducing flight from East Africa, I found myself shepherded, as in a dream, from post-to-post by an array of smiling students. ‘This way for your Olympic fast-track channel, sir … your accreditation … your bus … your room … your complimentary umbrella.’ Some were already fluent in English, others shyly practising newly-learned phrases, crushed if I didn’t understand first time.