Changing China

Giant on the move

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Wham, Bam, Thank You Yam!

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Yamaican celebrationsEver since Usain Bolt’s father Wellesley told Reuters that the “Trelawny Yam” was behind his son’s world-record breaking gold medal win in the men’s 100 metres, the Olympics has gone into a feeding frenzy over yam.

Rarely has a root vegetable enjoyed as much global interest as the previously humble Yam. So, to satisfy our readers’ craving and hunger, here are Several Things You Didn’t Know About Yam (we couldn’t think of 10).

1. Yams vary in size but some can grow to as long as 2.28 metres which is even longer than Usain Bolt himself (I think).

2. There are believed to be over 150 varieties of Yam. The most popular Jamaican variety is Yellow Yam. However Yam Laranas is not a variety of the vegetable. He is in fact a Filipino film director.

Beijing Games: picture of the day

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Liu Xiang pulls the numbers off

Gary Hershorn writes: Without question the story of the day is Liu Xiang walking off the track.

When the unexpected story happens in front of you it’s a stressful few minutes as you try and understand what is going on and then decide how to illustrate the story. The most important thing to remember is that we are journalists and we must find a way to show what happened.

Isinbayeva’s golden moment

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Isinbayeva breaking the world record

After the shock of Liu Xiang’s departure from the Games through injury, fans in the Bird’s Nest were given a golden moment to compensate at least slightly, as the peerless Yelena Isinbayeva broke her own world record in the pole vault.

The Russian made sure of the gold medal with just two jumps before returning to have a crack at raising her own best mark. After missing twice, she cleared 5.05 metres at the third attempt — with plenty to spare, it must be said.

Was Bolt celebration over the top?

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Bolt celebratesWas Usain Bolt’s theatrical exuberance before, during and after his 100 metres final appropriate for a man who gave a devastating performance that broke his own world record?

Or was it indulgent, inappropriate and over the top?

Do we want our sportspeople to be modest personalities whose performances do the talking?

Let’s not get our bikini bottoms in a twist

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Beach volleyballersSweeping the blogosphere, there are two divergent camps when it comes to beach volleyball.

There are those who complain that it is demeaning that female athletes play in bikinis while men wear tanktops and long shorts. Then there those who post pictures of players’ posteriors with pathetic locker-room comments that seem to prove the first camp right.

Liu Xiang: the end of an Olympic dream

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Liu grimaces“Well that’s it,” a journalist friend said when he phoned me at the Bird’s Nest a couple of hours after Liu Xiang hobbled out of the Beijing Olympics. “We might as well pack our backs and go home.”
 
We won’t, of course, but for us China-based reporters, this was always going to be the big one: the race that defined the Olympics.
 
I was in the Olympic stadium in Athens the night Liu won the 110 metres hurdles gold. Then it was a mild diversion, a tremendous performance from an unlikely source. He had barely finished his lap of honour, though, before his title defence in Beijing was being written about. It was too neat a line to miss.
 
Since then, I’ve written thousands of words about the skinny man from Shanghai with a penchant for karaoke and braised pork.
 
I was there last year, too, when he won his first world title on a hot and humid night in Osaka, his favourite track.
 
By then I’d been inside the Bird’s Nest and even as I pondered the raw concrete bowl with mud beneath my feet where the track would lie, I was thinking about how it would look and sound packed to its twisted steel rafters with a fevered Chinese crowd cheering Liu on.
 
Liu’s coach criesWe did see him run in the stadium at a test event earlier this year, but, to adapt a line from an American politician, I know Olympic finals and that was no Olympic final.
 
After his injury earlier this season, and his disappearance behind closed doors for a couple of months, I can’t even say I’m even surprised by what has happened. 
 
I have always felt sorry for Liu because of the pressure he was under and today also felt sympathy for his coach Sun Haiping, who has always come across as a thoroughly decent man. 
 
But rather selfishly, my main emotion is disappointment. We now know almost for certain that we will never hear the sound of 91,000 people celebrating an Olympic gold medal for one of their own in what must be one of the world’s finest stadiums.  

PHOTO (TOP): Liu Xiang of China grimaces in pain during his warm-up before the start of his 110m hurdles heat in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

South American rivalry to spice up the Games

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Argentina celebrateOnly one thing would give Argentina more pleasure than winning their second Olympic gold and that would be to stop Brazil from winning their first in the process.

The Olympic soccer tournament does not cut much ice in Europe but it is taken much more seriously in South America. Brazil have won the World Cup five times, the Copa America eight and the Confederations Cup twice and their failure to add an Olympic gold to their collection rankles.

Liu Xiang injury breaks China hearts

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Liu Xiang walks away

Liu Xiang’s quest to win a home Olympic gold ended before it had begun on Monday, as an injury prevented the 110 metre hurdler from starting his first heat.

China’s world and Olympic champion, the host nation’s best hope of an athletics gold medal at the Beijing Games, pulled up after a false start and walked off the track, stunning the huge crowd at the Bird’s Nest stadium into silence.

When is a false start not a false start?

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Women’s 100 metresI knew something was up when an official abruptly announced that the women’s 100 metres final news conference had been postponed.

Comments made by the two American sprinters on their way off the track had already rung an alarm bell.

McYam meals fuel fastest man

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Bolt posesYesterday I took a mean swipe at sports journalists for the vacuous questions they put to athletes. I must tip my baseball cap today, however, to the reporter who asked Usain Bolt how the fastest man in the world had spent his day.

It seems the Jamaican did a lot of time sleeping, and in between feasted on “nuggets”.

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