Changing China

Giant on the move

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Is ‘Lost Boy’ Lomong the right choice to carry U.S. flag?

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Lomong celebratesWhen militiamen swept into their villages on horseback in the early 1990s, shooting, burning and raping as they went, tens of thousands of young Sudanese boys were forced to flee for their lives.

They walked for hundreds of miles, many dying on the way of starvation and illness. Others were eaten by lions. But many survived, ending up in refugee camps in the near-desert plains of northern Kenya.

In 2001, nearly 4,000 of the “Lost Boys” were resettled in the United States. On Friday, one of them will have the honour of carrying the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Lopez Lomong, who left his home in the southern Sudan in 1991 as a six-year-old boy, is now a successful middle-distance runner. Chosen by his own team mates for the honour, he says Friday will be “the most exciting day ever in my life“.

Beijing believer: a sideways look at the Games

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The MPCMost blogs and reporter diaries from the Olympics start the same way. Your correspondent arrives in Beijing, jet-lagged but wide-eyed nonetheless, and waxes grateful about the helpful volunteers at the airport, the comfy shuttle bus to the media village and the smiling welcome from just about everyone, everywhere. And hey – even the smog isn’t as bad as everyone makes out.

Disillusion sets in a few days later, as they find access to athletes is incredibly hard to come by, you still can’t sleep properly and walking 400 metres in the city is enough to leave you with stinging eyes, a soaking shirt and an irritating cough. Damn that smog!

The American who missed the target but found love

Matt Emmons lost a gold medal with an ill-timed lapse in concentration on his very last shot at the 2004 Olympics yet won a bigger prize a few moments later when his future wife started chatting him up.

The American was one shot from a gold medal in the 50-metre rifle three-position target event when he fired at the wrong target. As he was consoling himself with a beer, Czech shooter Katerina Kurkova, doubling as a TV analyst, offered her commiserations and one thing led to another.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Picture of the day

Russell Boyce writes: Reuters staff photographer Darren Whiteside has captured a moment of quiet and tense preparation at the rowing venue. Silhouetting the Russian women’s Quadruple Sculls team by exposing for the hazy highlights, most of the colour is removed from the image.

By using the light in this way a sense of the tension starting to rise is created as rowlocks are tightened, boats polished and blades checked and double checked.

A moment away from the Olympic mayhem

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The Great Wall

Mao Zedong once said, “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.”

Tell me about it.

After experiencing the mayhem of the Olympic torch relay on Thursday, there was time to treasure a moment of pure tranquility. The calf-wrenching walk up a one-in-two incline is worth every step. Up at the top of the wall you feel like some minuscule character in the background of a Chinese painting.

Swifter, higher, stronger than me

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Posing in front of the ringsWhere else in the world could you spot a Bhutanese archer, a chunky weightlifter from a tiny South Pacific island and a freckled Ukrainian table-tennis champ within one enclosed space?

Journalism takes you to some strange locations, but the athletes’ village at the Olympic Games has to be one of the most bizarre places on earth.

Why Barcelona should let Messi stay in China

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Messi in trainingSpanish clubs are often cast as villains in South America. One minute they are refusing to release players to play for their respective national teams, the next they are accused of exploiting loopholes in transfer regulations to poach young talent without paying a penny.

Earlier this year, Vasco da Gama angrily accused Real Madrid of trying to make an offer to 15-year-old Philippe Coutinho behind their back. The club said that Real had offered a job to the player’s father and the chance to live abroad.

Jamaicans show how to relax ahead of the Games

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Jamaican team in a relaxed moodMy colleague Balazs Koranyi blogged yesterday about how hard it is for athletes in the build-up to the Games, when their preparations are pretty much complete and there’s too much sit and think.

Well, maybe not every athlete. The Jamaican track and field team had no qualms about letting their hair down and showing off their considerable assets at a pre-Games party this week.

Chinese smiles show changing times in Beijing

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subway smilesIt’s 18 years since I was last in Beijing as a wet-behind-the-ears backpacker, and of course the city is barely recognisable.

But what has really surprised me is the way the atmosphere has changed. Not the smog, but the way the people of China have opened their arms and welcomed visitors from around the world.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Yao Ming holds the Olympic torch aloft

Chinese basketball player Yao Ming (C) holds the Olympic torch during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Beijing August 6, 2008. REUTERS/Joe Chan (CHINA)

Russell Boyce writes: Yao Ming enters Tiananmen Square holding the Olympic torch high in the air in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao. The calm in the faces of Yao and Mao belies the chaos that surrounds them, as the flame escorts push back the assembled media and a crush of spectators.

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