Changing China

Giant on the move

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Off target and aquiver — archery is harder than it looks

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With our flags fluttering high above the Beijing archery venue, my German opponent and I nodded to each other in a show of mutual respect ahead of the sudden death shoot-off. The score was tied at 2-2 — the next one to burst a balloon in the middle of the target was the winner.

Our instructor for the day, the archery federation’s dashing event director Juan Carlos Holgado, moved us back 30 metres from the target and we let loose. Some 15 minutes and 20 arrows later, the only thing to have burst was our confidence.

This was the first time I had shot an Olympic-style recurve bow and it was a lot harder than it looked. Watching the archers practise from 70m out made it look so easy, but just to hold the bow at arm’s length without quivering was quite an effort.

How long would it take for me to compete at the highest level?

“A minimum of eight to 12 years,” said Holgado. “Once you have the physical, you must have the mental. The mental is what makes the difference between the good and the great archers.”

Messi likely to miss Olympics

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News just out that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled in favour of Barcelona and decided they will not have to release Argentine forward Lionel Messi for the Olympics.

Assuming Barcelona do not have a change of heart, it means one of the biggest-name athletes at the Games will not be taking part. Brazilians Diego and Rafinha, of Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, will now also presumably be going home.

You can carry the flag, Dirk — just don’t wave it around

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Nowitzki trainsDirk Nowitzki was picked to carry the German flag into the Olympic Stadium’s Opening Ceremonies on Friday but, in a country where carrying the national flag had long fallen out of favour, the NBA all-star basketball player was given a few unsolicited pointers by German Olympic officials on how to do the job.

“They gave me the tip that it’s not going to be like at Carnival and so I shouldn’t wave the flag around too wildly,” said Nowitzki, who added he was deeply honoured to be the country’s flag-bearer. “But I think I’ll still be able to have some fun with the whole thing.”

Is it smog or ‘static breeze’?

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U.S. cyclist Friedman arrives in a maskWith sensitivities running high among Beijing officials who promised a Green Olympics, including clear skies, any suggestion that the air quality is actually less than clear has caused some hurt feelings among the hosts.

It’s a prickly issue, because some athletes are limiting their time in Beijing, while four American track cyclists arrived yesterday in black face masks.

An Olympic waiting game

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Pool in the villageThe last weeks before the Olympics may be the most difficult for the athletes. The work is done and there’s nothing else to do but wait, rest, watch grass grow and let the pressure build. It’s a time which tests athletes’ mental strength and discipline.

In the last week before my first Olympic race, I tried very hard to escape the Games.

A smoke-free Games? Not for all the athletes

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Smoking BeijingEarly to rise, early to bed, and lots of exercise in between: athletes are supposed to be models of clean living, right? But some Olympians have a more healthy lifestyle than others.

For Italian weightlifter Giorgio de Luca, for example, doping is out of the question but coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional drink are all fine.

I’m running the 100m? If you insist…

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There was a classic moment at a media conference with 100 metres world record holder Usain Bolt today. Bolt’s coach told Reuters last week that the Jamaican would run the 100m as well as the 200m but he seemed unaware of the fact on Tuesday.

“I still have to decide,” he said, before being informed of his coach’s comment.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Bolt sits, arms stretched, in front of the Bird’s Nest

Russell Boyce writes: Great contacts and hard work led to Reuters News Pictures photographer Hans Deryk getting exclusive pictures of Usain Bolt, the 100m world record holder at the National Stadium.

The simple picture of Bolt posing with the specially made gold running shoes that he will wear when he aims for Olympic gold are a perfect blend of a sports news value with timing and place. After all, how much better could it get: the fastest man, being seen for the first time at the venue with is new running shoes.

Olympic panda-monium reigns at Beijing Zoo

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Pandas at the zoo

Forget Olympic fever. Nothing beats panda-monium.

The “Olympic pandas” at Beijing Zoo really do drive the crowds wild — even Germany’s beloved polar bear star Knut would be hard pressed to match the panda adoration sweeping the nation.

When the eight pandas in the Olympic Pavilion strut their stuff at feeding time, mothers rush to get a picture of their child with China’s national symbol in the background.

Can the ‘Redeem Team’ win basketball gold?

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James and Bryant

Loaded with outrageous talent, the United States men’s basketball team insist they will be checking egos at the door at the Beijing Olympics.

Boasting Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and its leading scorer, the Americans are favourites to win gold, although 2004 Athens gold medallists Argentina and world champions Spain will push them all the way.

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