Changing China

Giant on the move

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Just who is “Second Brother on the Right”?

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Second brother on the planeHis picture is all over Chinese Web sites and media. He has multiple proposals of marriage. And he became an overnight nationalist hero. But just who is China’s anonymous “Second Brother on the Right”?

The young man with classic good looks guarded the Olympic flame during its protest-ridden passage round the world. His prominent position (always standing second to the right of the flame) wrestling demonstrators and standing proudly next to the torch has brought him fame across China. 

“He is so hot and he is the pride of China! What more could a girl want?” wrote one female fan.

Second Brother’s popularity has tapped into two cultural under-currents in China — anger among many that foreign protests, mainly in favour of Tibetan independence, have tarnished their Olympics; and weariness with quickly-manufactured domestic pop and TV stars.

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.

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.

Inside the Bird’s Nest

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Workers make final preparations at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, in BeijingPicking my way through chaotic traffic, dust and unmade footpaths on my way to the Bird’s Nest stadium this morning, I had a flashback to the Olympic Stadium in Athens four years ago.

The difference was that when I was stumbling through the debris in Greece, it was just a few days before the Games rather than the 114 days that remain before the Opening Ceremony here in China.

Interval over…

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IOC President Rogge gestures to journalists ahead of the XVI Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly in BeijingLast week was a busy one in Beijing after events surrounding the torch relay took over the news agenda.

I spent six days in the bowels of a five-star hotel in central Beijing chasing comments from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and his colleagues on events in London, Paris and San Francisco.

This is normal, it happens in all countries…

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It arrived.

Chinese President Hu hands the Olympic torch to Liu Xiang in Beijing

Some 5,000 VIPs, cheering workers and media gathered on Tiananmen Square on Monday to welcome the Beijing Olympic flame and launch the 137,000-km torch relay.

Predictably, security on the square was tight. 

The 600 reporters, photographers and television crews were bused from the Olympic media centre some four hours before the flame made an appearance.

So let the Relay begin

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The moment China has been waiting for … well one of many Olympic moments. The torch relay kicked into gear on Monday, but not without a bit of drama. (The above picture is of China’s gold medallist swimmer Luo Xuejuan.)

The Chinese media lauded the event, and several pages of newspapers were devoted to lavish descriptions of the event.

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