Changing China

Giant on the move

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My bruising experience training for Beijing


gelu.jpgWhen I joined a fencing club in June, I just wanted to learn about a sport I would cover for the
first time at the Beijing Games
. Then a grandmother thrashed me in my first bout, bruising more than just my ego.

I used to fool around with a plastic sword as a kid, pretending I was d’Artagnan, so I figured I was well primed for a promising amateur career in this low-profile sport.

My first disappointment at the fencing club in Hellerup, a suburb of Copenhagen, was not being allowed to try the sabre — seen by some as cooler than the other two weapons, epee and foil, because it is derived from the cavalry sword and allows slashing hits as well as thrusts.

My coach, Mads Eriksen, said that weapon was too complex for a novice, so I was assigned the epee, where the rules are easy: just poke any part of the opponent’s body and you score a point.

India, Britain end long waits for Olympic gold


Adlington, JacksonIn all the excitement over Michael Phelps and his bid for eight golds it’d be easy to overlook a few other extraordinary achievements at the Games today.

Amid the gold rush at the Water Cube, Rebecca Adlington won Britain’s first Olympic women’s swimming title in nearly half a century with a victory in the 400 metres freestyle that was every bit as exciting as the American relay win that kept Phelps’s hopes of eight golds alive.

Day two at the Olympics

Michael Phelps smashed his own world record in the 400m individual medley to set off on what could be a record-breaking gold medal trail on day two of real action at the 2008 Olympics.

That was early in the morning and it took until late at night before we had a story that even came close to matching it, with the United States overcoming a slightly unconvincing start to beat China by an emphatic 101-70.

Beijing Games: picture of the day



Rickey Rogers writes: Alessandro Bianchi created this wonderful image as he searched for a new angle from which to photograph the second day of the fencing competition.

Sports like fencing, boxing and judo are very repetitive for a photographer, and it takes a curious eye to find new angles. The picture is aesthetically pleasing with enough movement to give the reader an idea of what the sport is about, and its multi-layered composition invokes mystery.

U.S. rout China — but just wait another 117 years


Bryant slam dunks

The Olympic basketball match between China and the United States just ended with the U.S. pulling away to win 101-70 in what they say was the most-watched event sporting event in China’s history.

It’ll be no surprise if the estimates are right and a billion or so people around the world were tuned in to watch what was after all an irresistible contest – a meeting between the “Reds” and the “Red-White-and-Blues” and one laden with symbols. 

Cyclists go a little too fast for the ‘bicycle kingdom’


Cyclists in the women’s road raceChina might once have been known as the ‘bicycle kingdom’, but if the scene along the women’s road race today is anything to go by, I wouldn’t hold my breath that the Olympics will inspire many Chinese people to become fans of competitive cycling.

A sizeable crowd gathered along an intersection near the historic Lama Temple in the centre of town to watch the racers go by this afternoon — some spectators who came specifically for the event, others passersby who were forced by the roadblock to wait and watch, many of them on bicycles themselves.

Argentina could pay high price for Messi deal


MessiArgentina could yet pay a heavy price for the deal which has allowed Lionel Messi to play at the Olympic Games.

A lengthy tug-of-war with Barcelona for Messi’s services ended with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that Barcelona were not obliged to release him for the Olympics.

Secret moustache pact paying off in the pool


water polo moustacheCroatia’s water polo team have all grown moustaches for the Olympics but they refuse to divulge exactly why.

“It’s for good luck, but we can’t talk about it — it’s a secret,” said Igor Hinic after an 11-7 victory over Italy. ”If I tell you, it will ruin it. Maybe it’s working — it worked today — but it’s too early to tell.”

Beijing podcast — day two

I’m joined today by Mitch Phillips, Karolos Grohmann and swimming expert Julian Linden to talk about the blockbusting start to the swimming from Michael Phelps, the relegation of athletics to second class status this week and all that’s been happening in the IOC corridors of power.

Breathless in Beijing — an athletic has-been tries the air


weather graphicThe long-distance cyclists said it was dreadful, the marathon runners live in fear of it and the tennis players want extra breaks to help them withstand its effects.

But how bad is the Beijing air really? Is it miserable beyond endurance for athletes busting their lungs to deliver peak performance? Or are the smog stories a smokescreen, part of the exaggeration attendant on any Olympic Games?