Changing China

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Politics and the Olympics over the years

WASHINGTON – The Olympics are supposed to be all about sports, not politics, right?

Wrong.

Although the Games began in 1896 with the hope that sporting events between nations could bring about a more peaceful world, they have not escaped politics.

Over the past 112 years, nations have boycotted the Games for political reasons, others have been denied entry by the International Olympic Committee and in 1972 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian insurgents.

Click here for a photo slideshow “Politics and the Olympics”, narrated by noted American sportswriter Frank Deford published by the U.S.-based Council of Foreign Relations.

Do injuries make you insane?

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Balazs Koranyi was a semi-finallist in the 800 metres at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters.  

For an athlete, the Olympics are a bigger gamble than putting money on the zero at a roulette table. And when you take a big gamble, you’re bound to do dumb things.

Tiananmen Square – June 4

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A young boy stands in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after attending the flag raising ceremony at dawn

Tiananmen Square - June 4, 2008. 

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Pictures by David Gray. 

Nineteen years after the crushing of the pro-democracy protests and 65 days before the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games, check out Chris Buckley’s feature on  the ’08 generation and this video report on China’s new nationalism.

Beijing Bellies

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After a disarmingly cool Beijing spring, summer hit the Olympics host city like a hammer this past weekend, marking the psychological final stretch to the Games.Across the city, kites fill the skies, cold drink sales pick up and bicycle ice cream vendors pedal the streets and lanes to provide relief from the pounding heat.

But if there is anything that defines summer in China’s capital when the mercury rises, its the near ubiquitous outpouring of Beijing bellies.

A tale of two stadiums

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Evacuated people rest at a sports stadium which was turned into a temporary shelter in MianyangThis weekend, Beijing inaugurated the new Bird’s Nest Stadium with the “Good Luck Beijing” track and field event. I attended less than 24 hours after covering the earthquake in Sichuan, and the contrast between sports and rubble was a little hard to digest.

The Bird’s Nest stadium, built for the Olympics, can seat 91,000 fans. The air flows through well, keeping it cool in the muggy Beijing summer. The seats are well-positioned, so the contestants can be seen easily. The screens are visible, the sound-system clear, the lighting strong but not harsh.

Long March to the Bird’s Nest

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Workmen walk on the roof of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium as the Good Luck Beijing China Athletics Open is being heldWatching athletics at the“Bird’s Nest” National Stadium is a dream for many Chinese people but it turned into nightmare for me last weekend.

We set off last Friday to see the titanic building and a relatively low-key athletics meeting mainly contested by young Chinese athletes.

The earthquake and the Olympics

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A soldier carries out relief work as a Beijing Olympics countdown board is seen in the background after an earthquake in BeichuanThe tenor of China’s Olympic year changed dramatically over the past two weeks.

What had been a building crescendo of celebration and national pride turned into an outpouring of grief and support for the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan.

Is there a place for soccer at the Olympics?

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AC Milan’s Kaka reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match against AS Roma in RomeKaka’s dream of helping Brazil win their first Olympic gold medal in soccer has been scuppered by his club AC Milan, who have announced that they will not allow him to play in the tournament in August.

“He is already part of the Brazil national side. The club does not think it is right for Kaka to also be involved in official matches for Brazil’s Olympic team,” the Italian club said in a statement.  

Disaster in Sichuan

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Earthquake damage in Dujiangyan

I was one of the first foreign reporters on the scene after a devastating earthquake hit the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on May 12.

It all seemed so normal when I arrived in the provincial capital Chengdu, some 12 hours after the 7.9 magnitude tremor hit, that I thought maybe the area had got off lightly. But heading in the hard hit town of Dujiangyan, just north of Chengdu, two hours after arriving in Sichuan, I realised how bad the situation was.

Where next for the torch?

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The national flag in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square flies at half mast in memory of those who died in the massive earthquakePreparations for the Beijing Olympics have understandably taken a back seat to the tragedy in Sichuan.

On Sunday, it was announced that the torch relay would be suspended from Monday to Wednesday to mark three days of national mourning.

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