Changing China

Giant on the move

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Will China change post-Olympics?

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torch goes outThe million dollar question on the minds of many: Will China change after the Olympics?

I’ve worked intermittently in Beijing for 11 years and in Taipei for 15, but analysing the world’s most populous nation, and an opaque one for that matter, is like a blind man feeling an elephant.

In many ways, I expect it to be business as usual for the Communist Party post-Olympics, resisting political change and tightening the security noose in restive Tibet and Xinjiang. But my money is also on ordinary Chinese clamouring for greater freedoms and forcing their government to be more transparent and accountable.

Chinese have never had it this good since the 1949 revolution, enjoying unprecedented personal freedoms after three decades of liberalisation transformed the country from an economic backwater into the world’s fourth-biggest economy.

Snapshot Beijing, 4: The greatest dive in Olympic history

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Mitcham dives

The Water Cube was almost silent as a slight blonde man who two years earlier was not even diving leapt off the ten metre platform, twisted and somersaulted through the air and slid into the water with just the slightest of splashes.

Matthew Mitcham resurfaced to an explosion of applause and as the judges’ scores came up his smile of delight dissolved into tears of disbelief.

Beijing 2008: Were these the best Games ever?

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Fireworks at the closing ceremony

The Beijing Olympic Games closed on Sunday, as China passed on the flame to London.

Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was in the habit of describing each Games as “the best ever”, with the notable exception of Atlanta in 1996.

Beijing podcast — day 16

Join us for the 16th and last podcast from the Beijing Olympics. We cast an eye back over the best moments of the Games, discuss Beijing’s world ranking and look ahead to quite a contrast with the next Olympics in London.

Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Nick Mulvenney and Robert F Woodward join me for the festivities. And Laura, that line at the start is really only a joke… 

Snapshot Beijing, 3: Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100m

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Bolt snapshot

At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. I shall never forget sitting in the front row and watching Ben Johnson hurtling towards the finish line in the 100 metres and then raising his hand aloft in an almost contemptuous “I am Number One” gesture.

Twenty years later, sitting — lucky me — in the front row again, my indelible memory of the Beijing Games will always be that magical last 100 metres when Usain Bolt looked left and right, spread his arms wide and thumped his chest for sheer joy.

Redeem team brings it home for the U.S.

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redeem team

After watching the United States destroy every opponent in the basketball tournament by an average of more than 30 points before the final on Sunday, there probably weren’t many people expecting Spain to have a chance against a “Redeem Team” determined to win back the gold medal after the debacle of the bronze in 2004.

But then Spain played a superb match and kept the Americans on the ropes all the way to the very end with one dazzling basket after another.

Should African coaches get more of a look in?

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Odemwingie shootsHalfway through their campaign at the Olympic Games, Nigeria coach Samson Siasia berated his players for a lack of discipline on the field and “ball-hogging”.

But perhaps a bit of African improvisation would not be such a bad thing.

Nigeria went on to reach the final of the tournament, beating old rivals the Ivory Coast and then thrashing Belgium 4-1 before coming unstuck against Argentina. Their semi-final performance against Belgium mixed moments of sublime skill with reckless defending and woeful, shoddy finishing. But the scoreline speaks for itself.

Beckham hits Beijing

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Beckham applaudsAs if any more glitz was needed at the Beijing Olympics, David Beckham flew into China at the weekend to promote the 2012 Games in London.

The former England captain has millions of fans in China. He will appear in the Bird’s Nest at the Olympics closing ceremony tonight, kicking a ball into the crowd from a red double-decker bus to symbolise the handover to London.

Kenya, Ethiopia reap rewards from hard work

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Dibaba leads the packDespite setbacks ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, Kenya will leave Beijing in glory after capturing 5 gold medals, 5 silvers and four bronze in distance running.

Kenya’s hope for an Olympic marathon medal were dealt a blow when Robert Cheruiyot pulled out due to injury and three-times London marathon winner Martin Lel’s training was affected by flu. But Sammy Wanjiru saved the day and brought the marathon gold medal, proof that distance running is Africa’s forte.

Some sounds are there to be savoured

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headers and volleysSimon Denyer blogged this week about the cheesy American rock music that has drowned out so many moments of quiet at these Games. What’s so wrong with the sound of silence, he asked?

Well, there are some sounds at the Games that have been worth hearing, especially if you’ve been lucky enough to get as close to the action as we have.

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