Changing China

Giant on the move

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Those moving medal moments…

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Isinbayeva on the podiumRemember the Black Power salutes from the podium in Mexico 1968?

The 2008 Beijing Olympics medal ceremonies might not produce anything to match that, but there has been no shortage of drama so far.

In the full emotional spectrum, we have had:

Anger – Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian stormed off the podium to dump his bronze on the mat in a protest against referees.

Tragedy – German weightlifter Matthias Steiner promised his dying wife he would honour her in Beijing, and clutched his gold next to a photo of her.

Confusion – Gymnastics fans still had their calculators out to decipher how American Nastia Liukin came second to China’s He Kexin after their identical score of 16.725 was decided by a convoluted tiebreak system.

A contact sport with a vengeance

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water poloIs there a more violent Olympic sport than water polo? Down at the Yingdong Natatorium it looked like the last scene of “Jaws” with all that water churning frenetically.

It looks tough enough on the surface. Lord knows what is happening under the water. This is a contact sport with a vengeance.

Lightning Bolt strikes again — your views

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Bolt gesturesJamaica’s Usain Bolt completed a breathtaking sprint double at the Beijing Games on Wednesday, breaking the 200 metres world record that many had thought unbreakable to take his second Olympic gold medal.

The contrast between this and his winning run in the 100 could hardly have been more marked, as this time he gave it everything he had to go under the old best mark, Michael Johnson’s 19.32, by two hundredths of a second.

What’s so wrong with the sound of silence?

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Fuwa noiseI might sound like a grumpy middle-aged Englishman in this blog, so be warned.

It seems like silence has been outlawed at the Beijing Olympics. Every second between every performance is filled with cheesy American rock, or the sort of music reminiscent of the moment the
hero comes to the rescue in a mediocre sub-Spielberg movie.

This is obviously an attempt to create an atmosphere and has been lifted wholesale from American sport. But as someone who has been brought up with the roar of the crowd at Fratton Park (Portsmouth Football Club’s home ground for non-British readers) I have to say it jars.

Beijing podcast — day 12

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Tune in to the unfortunately timed day 12 podcast from Beijing, recorded shortly before Usain Bolt’s crack at the 200 metres, to learn about:

The alternative alternative Olympics medals table

The great gold medal con trick

The ping pong bong

Who could resist? It’s eight minutes of nonsense, with an old joke at the end, and features Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Padraic Halpin, Karolos Grohmann and me.

Germans grieve with lovelorn lifter

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Steiner wipes away a tearWhen super-heavyweight lifter Matthias Steiner won his first Olympic gold medal, he kissed a photo of the woman he had buried in her wedding dress last year.

The hulking German’s tale of love and loss has moved millions of viewers around the world, and the image of Steiner holding up the photo of Susann, who died after a car crash, was splashed across German websites on Wednesday.

A cleaner Beijing would be perfect Olympic legacy

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bmx biking against clear skiesFor those of us who live in Beijing, the air during the Olympics has been a real treat. It smells sweet and breathes in nicely. Even better, I feel like I can see forever — buildings that are more than a mile away, even the purple outline of the Fragrant Hills to the west of the city. 

There were a lot of worries about the Beijing smog expressed by athletes and foreign journalists before the Games began. But for the last week, there has been a lovely salmon tinge to the clouds — real clouds, not smog! — in the evenings.

Have the British peaked too soon?

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A British feeding poleThere was a joke going around the Olympics (until yesterday evening) about how none of Britain’s gold medals had been won by people standing up. Perfect for the British, no? We do like a nice sit down and a cup of tea after all.

Christine Ohuruogu ended that odd little sequence when she followed the sailors, swimmers, cyclists and rowers on to the podium to collect her gold for the women’s 400 metres.

A reporter’s day in the life

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Gold medalMy mother back in the United States thinks I’m having a great time in Beijing. She envisions me casually dropping into see the swimming and the athletics, having a relaxed lunch, and then strolling over to the next venue to catch another big event in the evening. Let me give you a run through of one day I had near the start of the Games…

7:00 - Wake up too late for breakfast, rush through ablutions and run for bus. Clear airport-style security. Get on bus for 20-minute ride. Transfer to second bus for 40-minute ride to shooting venue.

Beijing podcast — day 11

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Tune in to the latest podcast hear about Yelena Isinbaeva’s pole vault magic, open water swimming’s dirty little secret and why you should never let an Australian come home with souvenirs for the kids.

I’m joined by Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Simon Evans and John “David Gedge” Chalmers for seven minutes of sunshine from grey Beijing. Enjoy…

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