Changing China

Giant on the move

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You’ve won the medal, now visit the country

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Boukpeti with medalTogo won its first ever Olympic medal on Tuesday, when Benjamin Boukpeti picked up a surprise bronze in the men’s slalom kayak event. Now he says he’s going to visit Togo.

Excuse me?

Athletes competing for countries other than the ones they were born in is nothing new. Middle-distance runner Lopez Lomong, who left his village in southern Sudan in 1991 aged six, carried the stars and stripes into the Bird’s Nest stadium at the head of the U.S. team.

Other athletes have switched countries for different reasons, often financial (see here for a Reuters Factbox). Kenyan-born double world steeplechase champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen, for example, emigrated to Qatar for a package including a monthly stipend of $1,000 for life.

But Boukpeti, so far at least, shows no sign of actually wishing to live in the country he competes for. Born in France to a French mother and Togolese father, he has only visited the African country once, as a child, to visit his grandmother. He only decided to compete for Togo when it became clear he was too old to make it into the far more competitive French team.

Day four at the Olympics

Michael Phelps made the headlines once again – most of them including the word “pantheon” — as he made it three gold medals and three world records from three finals so far.

The American now has nine career Olympic gold medals to his name and will almost certainly break the record he now shares with four other athletes when he swims in two finals tomorrow.

Does it matter if TV firework ‘footprints’ were a fix?

Organisers created a bit of a storm this morning when they revealed that parts of the spectacular firework display at the opening ceremony had been pre-recorded.

See this from Karolos Grohmann’s story on Reuters:

“Some footage had been produced before the opening ceremony to provide theatrical effect,” Beijing Games Executive Vice President Wang Wei told reporters.

Why can’t we have the Summer Games in the autumn?

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The sun in BeijingBeijing weather was one of the biggest stories in the run-up to the Games, and rightly so judging by the struggles of the cyclists in the men’s road race on Saturday. More than a third of contestants dropped out of the race, including one of the favourites Stefan Schumacher, who complained of a “very, very strong headache” he blamed on the pollution.

It got me wondering — why are the Games being held in August, just about the muggiest and smoggiest time of the year in the Chinese capital? What is wrong with September, or April come to that? It would not only have been cooler, but skies in Beijing are clearer too.

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