Changing China

Giant on the move

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Who’s top of the medals table?

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Phelps with the great eightAmericans looking at the medals table to the right of this blog, or on the official Games website, might be surprised to see the host country topping the chart with 39 gold medals and 68 in total.

The New York Times website, meanwhile, has the United States on top with a chart-leading 73 medals in total, 23 of them gold.

We at Reuters rank nations by the number of golds. It’s the way the IOC does it and, according to Reuters sports editor Paul Radford, it’s the way that makes most sense.

Here’s what Paul had to say when I asked him about it:

Reuters serves international clients across the whole world and most of them want their medals tables prioritised by gold medals. It seems that it is mainly North America which takes a different attitude and where the total number of medals is the criterion used.

Race walking is style over substance

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walker1.jpgAfter watching the men’s nail biting, down-to-the-wire 20 km race walk, I’m still not convinced this sport belongs in the Olympics.

Athletics is about running fast, throwing far and jumping high. Walking is about twisting your body and trying to go fast while trying to go slow. It’s like swimming in a straitjacket.

An Olympic wrestling match

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Olympic wrestlingIf you have been to the daily Olympic press briefing by Games organisers you’d think there was a war on around the venues and not a well-run Olympic Games, packed with memorable moments.

While the Games, on a sporting level, have been a smooth operation so far, with records set and ecstatic crowds, inside the press conference room it is a different story.

Sorting out your madisons from your keirins

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A cyclist practises at the velodromeFiguring out the rules for the points race at the Olympic cycling, you need a calculator and a cool head. It is over by the time you have worked out what is going on.

The men do 40 km over 160 laps, the women 25km over 100 laps. That’s the easy part.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Liu Xiang pulls the numbers off

Gary Hershorn writes: Without question the story of the day is Liu Xiang walking off the track.

When the unexpected story happens in front of you it’s a stressful few minutes as you try and understand what is going on and then decide how to illustrate the story. The most important thing to remember is that we are journalists and we must find a way to show what happened.

Isinbayeva’s golden moment

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Isinbayeva breaking the world record

After the shock of Liu Xiang’s departure from the Games through injury, fans in the Bird’s Nest were given a golden moment to compensate at least slightly, as the peerless Yelena Isinbayeva broke her own world record in the pole vault.

The Russian made sure of the gold medal with just two jumps before returning to have a crack at raising her own best mark. After missing twice, she cleared 5.05 metres at the third attempt — with plenty to spare, it must be said.

Was Bolt celebration over the top?

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Bolt celebratesWas Usain Bolt’s theatrical exuberance before, during and after his 100 metres final appropriate for a man who gave a devastating performance that broke his own world record?

Or was it indulgent, inappropriate and over the top?

Do we want our sportspeople to be modest personalities whose performances do the talking?

Let’s not get our bikini bottoms in a twist

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Beach volleyballersSweeping the blogosphere, there are two divergent camps when it comes to beach volleyball.

There are those who complain that it is demeaning that female athletes play in bikinis while men wear tanktops and long shorts. Then there those who post pictures of players’ posteriors with pathetic locker-room comments that seem to prove the first camp right.

Liu Xiang: the end of an Olympic dream

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Liu grimaces“Well that’s it,” a journalist friend said when he phoned me at the Bird’s Nest a couple of hours after Liu Xiang hobbled out of the Beijing Olympics. “We might as well pack our backs and go home.”
 
We won’t, of course, but for us China-based reporters, this was always going to be the big one: the race that defined the Olympics.
 
I was in the Olympic stadium in Athens the night Liu won the 110 metres hurdles gold. Then it was a mild diversion, a tremendous performance from an unlikely source. He had barely finished his lap of honour, though, before his title defence in Beijing was being written about. It was too neat a line to miss.
 
Since then, I’ve written thousands of words about the skinny man from Shanghai with a penchant for karaoke and braised pork.
 
I was there last year, too, when he won his first world title on a hot and humid night in Osaka, his favourite track.
 
By then I’d been inside the Bird’s Nest and even as I pondered the raw concrete bowl with mud beneath my feet where the track would lie, I was thinking about how it would look and sound packed to its twisted steel rafters with a fevered Chinese crowd cheering Liu on.
 
Liu’s coach criesWe did see him run in the stadium at a test event earlier this year, but, to adapt a line from an American politician, I know Olympic finals and that was no Olympic final.
 
After his injury earlier this season, and his disappearance behind closed doors for a couple of months, I can’t even say I’m even surprised by what has happened. 
 
I have always felt sorry for Liu because of the pressure he was under and today also felt sympathy for his coach Sun Haiping, who has always come across as a thoroughly decent man. 
 
But rather selfishly, my main emotion is disappointment. We now know almost for certain that we will never hear the sound of 91,000 people celebrating an Olympic gold medal for one of their own in what must be one of the world’s finest stadiums.  

PHOTO (TOP): Liu Xiang of China grimaces in pain during his warm-up before the start of his 110m hurdles heat in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

South American rivalry to spice up the Games

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Argentina celebrateOnly one thing would give Argentina more pleasure than winning their second Olympic gold and that would be to stop Brazil from winning their first in the process.

The Olympic soccer tournament does not cut much ice in Europe but it is taken much more seriously in South America. Brazil have won the World Cup five times, the Copa America eight and the Confederations Cup twice and their failure to add an Olympic gold to their collection rankles.

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