Posts Tagged ‘beijing 2008’

Paralympics Closing Ceremony

Paralympics Closing Ceremony

The Beijing Paralympics wrapped up yesterday with yet another spectacular ceremony at the wonderful Bird’s Nest stadium giving delirious athletes a chance to say goodbye after an extremely successful Games. Sounds like a similar story to four weeks ago when the Olympics ended on a high – we were even treated to another show of gormless flag waving from an open-suited Mayor of London.

Unfortunately Bob has been awol for the last three weeks and has not been able to continue regular blogging throughout the Paralympics, and this is not an attempt to brush it under the carpet as ‘similar to the Olympics’; reviews of the Paralympics will follow. Bob has been keeping up with the news from Beijing, but upon returning to work in London has suffered from excess of work and shortage of post-Beijing motivation, both of which have stifled blogging.

As the Paralympic athletes return to their respective homes there do seem to be a number of parallels with the Olympics:

  • The organisers will be breathing a sigh of relief after another almost trouble-free event. They have been widely congratulated by athletes, officials and observers alike (and are not afraid of exhibiting this in the Chinese media)
  • The ceremonies have been grand and spectacular
  • The volunteers have been lauded and celebrated for their enthusiasm and sheer number

    Volunteers at the 2008 Olympics at Shanghai Stadium

    Volunteers at the 2008 Olympics at Shanghai Stadium

  • China have topped the medal table
  • The British team are celebrating an extraordinary performance (although the athletics has been a disappointment)
  • Questions are being asked about how London will measure up to Beijing
  • Despite fantastic organisation, comments have been made about Beijing’s lack of atmosphere and ‘fun’

Over the next two weeks Bob will discuss the Paralympics, the aftermath of both events in Beijing 2008, the implications for China, and the lessons for London in 2012. Then the Beijing Olympics Blog will be wrapped up for good, and some new chapters will be opened.


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The Olympics are over, and most of the athletes have returned home to be paraded in front of adoring crowds. Now it is Bob’s turn to do the same (minus the crowds), back in Shanghai again now and the UK tomorrow.

However this is not the end of the events in Beijing, or the Beijing Olympics Blog – the 2008 Paralympics will kick off in a matter of days (unfortunately Bob’s 30 day visa does not allow for this to be covered as well), and there is still plenty to digest from the summer, so watch this space.

It’s been another wonderful trip to China – many thanks to everyone who has helped to make it so; friends and colleagues, former students and volunteers, landlords, shop keepers and taxi drivers.

It has certainly been a successful Olympics (as CCTV constantly reminds us), for which the organisers must be commended. The stadia and facilities have been immense, the volunteers have shone and the organisers have mixed security with convenience to ensure everything has worked smoothly and they have largely escaped criticism.

Well organised does not always mean fun, however. And this is one thing that Beijing could have delivered more of. Within the stadiums the atmosphere has mostly been superb, but outside the enthusiasm has been dispersed and diluted in the vastness of Beijing.

The wide roads and large buildings in Beijing can be disorienting, and can give you the impression of an echo, bouncing around in a void. It lacks the local environments which can stimulate spontaneity and excitement. London has these spaces in abundance, as does Shanghai these days, so for this Bob is less sad about leaving Beijing. The ability to create a great atmosphere and spaces for fans, athletes and locals to unite will be key for London if they hope to host a successful Olympics (much as Sydney managed).

Anyway, more on the pro’s and con’s of the Beijing Games, and what London will need to do later…

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Finally the day has come and everybody – with the possible exception of those who have chosen to time such an auspicious date with wedding/child birth – is gearing up for the main event; the Opening Ceremony.

All over Shanghai people have been working half-days, leaving work early to prepare for the evening’s festivities. Bars and clubs have been promoting their venues in anticipation of a big turn out, and lost of people are hosting their own ‘Opening Ceremony Parties’. Mario & Sonic at the Olympics on the Nintendo Wii seems to be a popular themed warm up entertainment.

It’s sure to be a spectacular show (with or without Steven Spielberg!). There is keen anticipation in the air combined with a slight sense of nervousness; the run up to the Games has been slightly fraught and it seems almost inevitable that someone would target the main event tonight. It would  be a great shame if it were spoiled. But an even greater shame would be for the security to count any protest were to overshadow the entire event!

People attending the Olympic qualifying football matches last night were made to wait an hour to enter the stadium because of the high level of security. It is possible that such controls will kill all spirit and atmosphere in Beijing.

What’s more, if there should be a protest, surely most people would like to know, rather than for the whole event to be shrouded in suspicion and cynicism.

Bob has not heard estimates on the anticipated viewing figures but this will surely be one of the biggest TV events going. Every Chinese New Year it is part of the modern tradition in China for families to gather round and watch the special variety show – young and old, it seems that is just what people do. So much has been made of the Olympics nationally that the broadcasting of the Opening Ceremony may well bring people together in a similar way. Who knows how much those advertising spaces are worth!?

Fingers crossed for a spectacular show, and no sour taste afterwards.

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Bob is delighted to be writing the Beijing Olympics Blog from China; admittedly not Beijing, but one step at a time. Unfortunately getting here has meant that it’s been a quiet time on the blog recently just the media has been full of enough Olympic news to satisfy the most eager observe. Bob would like to share responsibility for the lack of posts with KLM who run a very relaxed corporate policy towards punctuality, and the Chinese government who have an equally vigilant policy of internet censorship.

Beijing Olympic Volunteers in Shanghai

Beijing Olympic Volunteers in Shanghai

You may notice a difference in the coverage of the Beijing Olympics Blog as Bob hopes to provide a more personal experience of the Olympics, as the mainstream press are sure to be full of any and every Beijing story going.

Bob was pleased to be greeted at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport by a host of young and eager volunteers sitting underneath a Beijing 2008 banner and wearing matching uniforms.

“Do you have information about the Olympics?”

“No, sorry.”

“Oh, do you have information about the Olympic football in Shanghai?”

“No, we just have information about Shanghai.”

“Or how to get to Beijing from Shanghai?”

“No, just Shanghai.”

Still, they did have lots of information about Shanghai!

For the record, although a lot of news coverage appears to have been given to the government’s relaxation of censorship on parts of the web – including the BBC, certain Amnesty sites and content about the 1989 Tian’anmen Square incident – they have not unblocked WordPress. This will probably be enough to appease the IOC who had demanded that the Great Firewall of China be lowered for the Games. This has made accessing and updating the Beijing Olympics Blog quite difficult, and of course it is extremely frustrating that hardly anyone in the mainland will be able to read it. The next update will come as soon as possible, all things considered J

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Few people would argue that China is controversial choice of host country for the 2008 Olympics – something the Chinese government are only too aware of. With high profile protests greeting the Olympic torch’s global relay and rioting in various western provinces by ethnic Tibetans there is a very real threat of unrest spoiling the sporting showcase of the Olympic Games.

However, many believe that the security measures imposed by the authorities in Beijing may actually do more to sour the spectacle themselves. In the first guest post for the Beijing Olympics Blog a friend of Bob’s and a prominent Chinese Studies academic writes that this March tension was high and the atmosphere was poor in Beijing because of the prominent security presence:

I have never known Beijing as tense, the police and military presence as overt and aggressive, and Tiananmen Square as controlled, as it was in March. We had a lot of hassle about bags and searches before going up onto Tiananmen at the end of the Forbidden City visit, which made me wonder if anyone had tried to get up there, or even succeeded, with a Tibetan flag or leaflets, and then when leaving the Forbidden City, we were all funnelled over one marble bridge lined with a dozen armed men all urging us to hurry up – I think they were trying to make sure no-one whipped out a banner or flag under the Mao portrait, and again, it made me wonder if anyone had done just that, or tried to. It must have made an awful impression on first-time visitors, though – they were almost pushing people along over the bridge, even elderly and disabled tourists.
Then as we were walking east on Chang’an Avenue to where we could catch a cab, still at the top of the Square, we passed a middle-aged migrant woman, who looked as if she might have been Tibetan, who was refusing to let two police officers search her bag. They twisted her arms behind her back, threw her on the ground and knelt on her, pulling her by her hair, just eight feet away from half a dozen horrified British students. When they started to let her up, she threw a punch at one of them, so they repeated the performance, and other police came over to move everyone on, so we didn’t find out what, if anything, she had in that bag – she looked to me like the kind of woman who sells maps and postcards on the Square, not that many of them were allowed onto it to do that this year, but I guess she might have looked a bit Tibetan to the police as well, hence the search. All rather horrible, but I’m glad the students saw it.
We went onto the Square the next day, the day before the torch arrived, and the top half was already closed off in preparation. Locals and tourists were heavily outnumbered by police and soldiers, and police cars cruised the Square broadcasting in English and Chinese instructions not to come to the ceremony if you weren’t invited! Not terribly welcoming, then, and a plain-clothes police office filmed me for 50 minutes while I was talking to my students (should have asked him for a copy – it would have made a nice podcast). The Monument to the People’s Heroes was also closed off and had armed sentries posted all over it – I think that’s new since last year.
I can’t see how they’re going to get through the Games without incident, judging by March-April – things like this are bound to be seen by loads of foreign visitors, including the press – which is partly why I want to be there for the start, at least, although of course it’s the only country in the world where whatever happens either won’t be on the evening news at all, or in very particular form.

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This post is being written from SW19 where today Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer made history, beautifully.

Nadal and Federer - True Olympians

Nadal and Federer - True Olympians

It is four years until Wimbledon will be an Olympic venue, but today the most famous tennis club in the world played host to a such exhibition of sporting excellence that the Greek Gods themselves would have struggled to keep up. Rarely do two sporting greats meet in the ultimate arena, and both perform to their potential – but today they did. This summer in Beijing most anticipation will be on the clashes between Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles or the three-way of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. If any of these confrontations prove to be half as dramatic as the men’s Wimbledon final of 2008, they will go down in Olympic history for it!

This year’s Wimbledon tournament means that there will be added interest in the tennis competition in Beijing. Added local interest will come thanks to the giant-slaying heroics of Zheng Jie, the women’s semi-finalist who defeated three seeds including new world number one Ana Ivanovic before coming up against Williams junior.

But the men’s tournament is likely to attract more international coverage than it might have previously thanks to events in south-west London today. In defeating reigning five-time champion on his favourite surface Rafael Nadal has leap-frogged Roger Federer in many people’s eyes (if not the official rankings, yet) to the position of world number 1. This remarkable feat was sealed in an even more remarkable match, which Nadal won 9-7 in the final set.

This signifies a tectonic shift in men’s tennis – not since 1981 has anyone won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back – and opens up speculation about who will go on to dominate the coming years of the sport. With only one Grand Slam left this year (US Open), and the end of season masters competition (also based in China, in Shanghai) the Beijing Olympics becomes one of the three most high profile events left of 2008. With the place at the top of the men’s tennis tree in more open contention than it has been for five years the Beijing Olympic tennis competition holds more significance than many people would have expected. Let’s just hope that we can expect the kind of final that these athletes produced today.

Olympic Gold - One of the Few Honours Federer is Yet to Win

Olympic Gold - One of the Few Honours Federer is Yet to Win

Both Federer and Nadal are very aware of sporting history, and so will both be among the top players to participate in Beijing. According to the BBC coverage 17 of the top 20 men and 18 of the top 20 women will play at the Olympics. Bob is aware than Andy Roddick will not participate, although this is not a boycott by any means, but a purely sporting decision. And of course the retirement of Justine Henin earlier this year means she will not be present.

Federer Lead the Swiss Olympic Team in 2004

Federer Lead the Swiss Olympic Team in 2004

In 2004 Federer was the flag bearer for the Swiss Olympic team, and he is hoping to fulfil this role again this year (via China Daily).

“It’s my birthday on the day of the opening ceremony, maybe I will carry the flag again for Switzerland. I’d be very honoured.”

On the subject of the Olympics Rafael Nadal to China Daily “The Olympics will be important”, and how right he was!

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Though this site is not intended as a travel guide for those visiting the Olympics (we do not claim to be the highest authority in such matters) efforts will be made to include as much detail on tickets, how they’re being distributed, and how possible it is to attain them. Already this sounds like a contentious topic

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