Changing China

Giant on the move

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Will Bahamas top medals table again?

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There’s an interesting graphic at moreintelligentlife.com showing the medals table at the last Olympics in Athens, adjusted for each country’s population.

The Bahamas are top with Australia second and Cuba third, according to the site’s calculations. Australia were fourth in the unadjusted table, which I guess just highlights their extraordinary performances at the highest level in sport.

It’s early days here in Beijing, where China lead the ”real” medals table with two golds from three events. The big surprise there is that it’s not a 100 percent record. Du Li had been a strong favourite to repeat her success of Athens and win the opening gold of the Games in the 10m air rifle.

In the end, it seemed, the pressure was too great. You can get updates, and see all of our coverage of the Games, by clicking here.

Watching human rites

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Hu Jintao and George BushIn the end they came of course. Remember all that talk about leaders boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games over China’s ties with the government of Sudan or its crackdown on Tibetan rioters?

Well, when the lavish ceremony got underway in the Bird’s Nest stadium on Friday night, some 80 leaders and royals were watching, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had threatened not to turn up.

Bush volleyball becomes an Olympic sport

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Bush plays volleyball

U.S. President George W. Bush did what most people would do on a sticky day and took some time out at the beach on Saturday. The beach volleyball, that is.

The United States are favourite in both the men’s and women’s tournament and the president popped by to wish them good luck. He was not expecting to be made to actually play, nor to be proffered a pert buttock to pat.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Opening ceremony

Russell Boyce writes: Deciding on a picture of the day from the opening ceremony proved to be harder than I first thought.

The picture has to have the Olympic flame, it has to show the Olympic Rings, it has to show the stadium and part of the opening ceremoy itself and of course it has to show fireworks.

The Games have begun, but what was that ceremony about?

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Opening ceremony pictures

I’ve been deafened by the drums, astounded by the aerial acrobatics and blinded by the cornea-carving light show. The torch is lit in its giant cauldron hanging from the lip of the Bird’s Nest stadium and the 2008 Olympic Games have begun.

But what is it I’ve sat through for hours on a steamy Beijing evening? Was it mass-participation theatre, a pseudo-religious sanctification of sport, a kitsch ‘son et lumiere’ mangling of traditional Chinese art forms? A pyrotechnics-fuelled rock ballet? A modernised courtly pageant or a magnified pantomime of over-produced gimcrackery? The best of Cirque du Soleil-style wizardry or high camp showbiz?

Lucky numbers for some at the opening ceremony

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Ollmpic face logoAuspicious, fortunate, lucky - the 08/08/08 date is supposed by Chinese to bring blessings.

In a gesture of ambitious synchronicity the Opening Ceremony was to have kicked off on that date at 8 minutes past 8pm.

900 days on, my Games begin

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Synchronised swimmersI’d like to write that when I first arrived in Beijing on that freezing February morning in 2006, I spied, through the gloom and smog, the number 900 on the Olympic countdown clock that sits beside the airport highway.

I can’t do that, sadly — I don’t remember it, and I’m not even sure the countdown clocks were up by then — but that is, by my calculation, what it would have read on my first day in China.

Dunga far from happy despite Brazil win

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Ronaldinho shoots

If there was an Olympic gold medal for whingeing then Dunga, coach of the Brazilian soccer team, would be among the early contenders.

The 1994 World Cup winning captain, who as a player was an example of resilience and dedication to the cause, is not a happy camper.

The Olympic Games by numbers

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    18 – number of days of competition – Aug. 6-7 and 9-24. 302 – medal events 10,708 – athletes taking part 21,600 – media accredited to the Games 2,924 – judges and referees 70,000 – Olympic Games volunteers 91,000 – seats in the “Bird’s Nest” stadium 31 – venues in Beijing 6 – venues outside Beijing (Hong Kong, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao) 7,000,000 – tickets sold 5,000 yuan – ticket for opening ceremony ($661.4) 30 yuan – ticket for softball preliminaries ($3.97) 137,000 km – distance covered by pre-Games torch relay 24.9 Celsius – average temperature in Beijing in August 159.7 mm – average rainfall in Beijing in August

Reuters is putting out a ton of stats and factbox material as well as scores of stories per day. If you haven’t already, please check out our Olympics Website here.

NOTE: This post was updated with new information at 0837 GMT on August 8.

The big day arrives: Beijing abuzz ahead of Games opening

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Dress rehearsalThe big day has finally arrived. Seven years on from the decision to award Beijing the 2008 Summer Olympics the Games are set to begin with a “big bang” at the opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest.

I’ve only been in Beijing a week so I thought I’d ask a couple of colleagues who live here in the Chinese capital to tell us how they feel now the waiting is (almost) over.

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