Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘olympics’

Queuing up to pass through one of the many security check points at the Olympics on one occasion there was a recording being played over the PA system: “Flags of non-participating countries and regions, and sharp objects are not permitted into the Olympic Green”.

At first this seemed like a strange combination – why should sporting Scott or a crowd of Québécois not be allowed to bear their own banners, even if athletes don’t compete under these names? Then an idea quickly dawned. There is a region/nation whose flag is particularly feared by the Beijing Olympic organisers; Tibet.

Bob is not aware of whether this is a new Olympic rule, specific to Beijing, or whether this is customary at every Games. Perhaps those better informed can comment?

Now, the Olympics is one of the few global sporting occasions, it seems, when British athletes do compete under the same banner, and not as the representative countries (which is why Team GB don’t submit a football team to the Games). Personally, this makes it particularly special, and Bob celebrates the opportunity (as an Englishman) to stand alongside Welsh, Scotts and Nothern Irish in support of one team. It is nice to spot a Union Jack in the crowd, but there would be nothing wrong with seeing it flutter next to the Welsh dragon, or Saint Andrew’s Cross.

Bob was considering putting the ruling to the test, and boldly walking up to the gate with the flag of St George tucked under one arm, but then passed a man robed in one casually strolling through the Olympic Green on Saturday 23rd. He did not appear to be hiding his illegal flag from the security.

On the face of it this appears to be a rule with Chinese nationalism in mind, masked as a standard Olympic security condition. Or perhaps that is an over-reaction?

Read Full Post »

As the rain poured down in Beijing on Thursday it seemed like a good opportunity to stay in and catch up on some blogging – unfortunately Bob’s internet connection disagreed, and would not allow this post. Trying again now, on Friday. It has been difficult to fit in posts, around ticket-hunting, sport-watching, exploring Beijing and accessing WordPress. It has been hard enough just to keep up with the rapid flow of British gold medals that just seem to keep coming! Fair play to the folks at the BBC live text commentary, who keep Bob up to date with what’s going on; it can’t be an easy job being a journo out here. However, a dedicated press centre, access to BBC TV and not having to run around looking for affordable tickets must help a bit.

Bob has been fortuitous enough to see two British golds, a silver and a bronze, and that is without even making it as far as Qingdao for the sailing or Shunyi for the rowing.

On Sunday night Bob and friends were the beneficiaries of four top-grade seats in the National Indoor arena to watch gymnastics. Coincidentally this was the day in which the only male British gymnast to make it to a final was performing. The event was the pommel horse, and the man was Louis Smith. With gymnastics it is hard sometimes for the lay-person to know when someone has done well or not, but along with the American competitor Smith’s routine was identifiable for its individuality. To see the first gymnastics medal for a British male in 80 years was thrilling!

The velodrome has been the source of 7 of Team GB’s golds, and was top of Bob’s ticket wish-list. Saturday afternoon was spent fruitlessly waiting outside, in the far western suburb of Laoshan, and things did not look promising, until finally persistence paid off with tickets for Monday. It was well worth the graft to see Chris Hoy, Jamie Staff and Victoria Pendleton in dominating form, and on top of that to see the Men’s team pursuit win gold in another world record time! Alas, we had to leave before we could hear the anthem as we had an appointment in the Bird’s Nest.

We needn’t have worried, ‘God Save The Queen’ is getting regular airtime in Beijing this month, and sure enough Bob was present in the Bird’s Nest on Tuesday night to join Christine Ohuruogu in belting it out. All of this success really seems to have awoken a sense of nationalism in Bob – not normally one to carry a Union Jack or swell with pride at the strains of the anthem. Bob can’t help but wonder if it has had the same impact back home – is it great to be British at the moment?

Ohuruogu’s gold was all the more exciting because of the way it was won. Starting just below Bob (as the commentators might have described it), American pre-race favourite Sanya Richards flew off into an early lead, leaving Christine down in 6th or 7th. However, 24-year-old Brit showed amazing self-confidence and experience, giving herself a lot to do down the home straight, but with enough in the tank with which to do it. For the final 50 meters the rest of the field appeared to be running backwards while Ohuruogu powered on slaying one after the other with enough time to spare to win by a clear margin. Brilliance, pure brilliance. The volunteers in the stand nearby appeared to be infected by the excitement too and congratulated Bob so many times it was as if they believed he has run the circuit below.

Although overshadowed by the 400m gold, Germain Mason’s high jump silver medal was an even more unexpected addition to the tally, and an equally impressive performance. The man beat his personal best, only to be bettered by Andre Silnov who is quite simply in a league of his own anyway. Roger Black’s comments about racing for silver when competing in the same race as Michael Johnson come to mind, and in this case Mason stepped up to the plate when it mattered.

Bob also followed the trail to the BMX track this morning to watch Shanaze Reade. Supremely powerful Shanaze lived up to her billing in the semi-finals blowing away much of the competition. But her third fall in six races on the spectacular Chinese track came on the final bend in the final race and cost her a medal. Shanaze was sitting in second place, and crashed in an overtaking manoeuvre, risking a guaranteed silver for a possible gold. This is the first time Shanaze has been beaten all year, and she looked not only physically hurt (possible broken hand) but mentally crushed. No hear though, she will certainly be back, and could be great. Really great!

(Pictures will follow, but the connection to WordPress is just too slow at the moment…)

Read Full Post »

Attending an Olympic Games hosted by China was always going to throw up some interesting challenges for the Taiwanese team, and the China’ Taiwan Affairs office have decided to spice things up. The controversy revolves around the name that Taiwan competes under at the Olympics…

The situation is this: in 1989 China and Taiwan agreed that the latter would be referred to as Zhonghua Taipei (中华台北) which translates as Chinese Taipei. Bob’s understanding is that Zhonghua does mean ‘China’ but is not used to refer to the nation that we know today. This week however “Yang Yi of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has suggested that Zhongguo Taipei (中国台北) is just as valid as an Olympic designator” (via Shanghaiist). Zhongguo being the name used to refer to modern China, as we know it.

The implication of the change in semantics is probably best put; it’s like changing from ‘Chinese Taipei’ to ‘China’s Taipei’.

This is not the first time that the Chinese Olympic organisers have tried to use the Beijing Games as a PR tool for implying Taiwan’s belonging to the mainland. When organising the (fated) Olympic torch relay an invitation was extended to Taiwan: the Taiwanese were very happy to be part of the international leg, which passed through London and Paris along it’s way, but were less pleased to find out that they had been scheduled between Hong Kong and Macao as part of the domestic route (which also climbed Everest and ghosted through Xinjiang). Funnily enough Taiwan refused.

These stunts are clearly lined up to reinforce the official Party line in China that Taiwan is part of the same country. This is an opinion held very strongly within the general population, who will often express a deep wish that Taiwan would ‘come back to its family’. Bob is unsure of who the PR machine is trying to convince; the Chinese population who are already on side, or the ignorant international community, many of whom may not know what Taiwan’s status is.

Bob is not unfamiliar with the complicated way in which the Chinese view Taiwan; a couple of stories come to mind from teaching in China. The first being a polite scolding from a politically aware colleague that we had better go back to Google images to find a different map of China (one that included Taiwan!).

Map of China WITH Taiwan

Map of China WITH Taiwan

Map of China WITHOUT Taiwan

Map of China WITHOUT Taiwan

The second event being a discussion of landmarks which turned to the subject of the world’s tallest buildings. The students seemed puzzled when Bob suggested that indeed China was already home to the world’s tallest building. “No” they said, “that will be in Shanghai, but it’s not finished yet”. A little confused and cautious of what to say Bob pointed out that Taip – ei was home to the current tallest skyscraper and so of course it was Chinese. At this point the students also seemed confused at whether the tower was in fact Chinese; perhaps it was a Zhonghua tower, but not a Zhongguo tower?

World's Tallest Tower in Taiwan (China?)

World's Tallest Tower in Taiwan (China?)

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Dayron Robles World Record Breaker

Cuba’s Dayron Robles has toppled Liu Xiang’s 110m hurdles world record. The 21-year-old clocked 12.87 seconds, beating Liu’s time by just 0.01 seconds and smashing his own personal best. Liu was not racing.

Check out Robles’ reaction here:

Olympic favourite in more ways than one, Liu Xiang is not only expected to successfully defend his Olympic title, but is one of the most popular athletes in the host country. If the pressure from 1.3 billion people’s expectations was not great enough, Liu now has to contend with a new world record holder. Many Chinese hearts will be beating a little faster when they hear the news this Friday morning…

Liu Xiang Dayron Robles

Much has been said about the pressure Liu will face this year; seeing him win gold in the Bird’s Nest was number one in a poll of the Chinese public’s Olympic dreams. Comparisons have been drawn between Liu and more traditional Chinese heroes.

Despite having started his season well, Liu missed two races this week through disqualification and a slight injury. Meanwhile Robles could not have timed this form better, and will join Usain Bolt as a new favourite come August.

The main events in Beijing certainly look to be hotting up! Let’s hope the athletics can outshine the drugs rumours and protests after all!

Read Full Post »

The Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games have released the official ‘cheer’ for the 2008 Games (via Danwei). For this vital task BOCOG have teamed up with the Party Office of Spiritual Civilization Development and Guidance (GODPP), the Ministry of Education and CCTV.

With this huge amount of expertise, a highly advanced cheer has been developed.

“Olympics, let’s go!

China, let’s go!”

The technical diagram below does it’s best to demonstrate the complex movements that follow the words:

Official Olympic cheer

If this is too complex for you the BBC have kindly tasked their top designers with simplifying things:

Official Olympic Cheer from BBC

To explain the importance of this cultural landmark the president of the Beijing Etiquette Institute, Li Ning (not the same Li Ning who featured in the 10 Chinese people you should know about) was called in. From Beijing News (via Danwei):

“At yesterday’s ceremony, Li Ning explained that the uniformity of the cheer contained a multitude of variations. It could be “Go Olympics! Go China!” as well as “Go China! Go Yao Ming!” or “Go Brazil! Go Ronaldino!” It will work to give encouragement to every country and athlete in competition.”

Bob is sure that anyone else who has been to a sports event – particularly a school sports day – will be very familiar with the chant “加油” (“jia you” / “let’s go”). As Meg at Beijing Olympics FAN! points out “jia you” can be directly translated as “add oil”, but is very regularly used as “let’s go” or “come on”. This may not really be new, or revolutionary, but it is a nice little piece of modern Chinese culture.

Check out the CCTV introduction video, including demonstrations from many people in coloured t-shirts, at Danwei.

Read Full Post »

Dwain Chambers Olympic AppealIn the BBC Olympic blog Adrian Warner revealed on Friday that key figures in Athens “think Dwain Chambers has a good chance of winning his drugs appeal against the British Olympic Association and making it to the Beijing Games”.

Drugs is an issue that has come to overshadow track and field athletics (amongst other sports of course), and shows little sign of disappearing. On either side of the Atlantic there are high profile stories in the news at the moment; while in the US Antonio Pettigrew (gold medalist in men’s 4x400m in Sydney) has just admitted to using performance-enahncing drugs (let’s call them PEDs), in the UK Dwain Chambers’ quest to compete in Beijing is controversial news.

The situations, for those who don’t know:

  • Having completed at the highest level for many years, and won World Championship medals, in 2003 Chambers tested positive for the anabolic steroid THG
  • As punishment Chambers was banned for 2 years by UK Athletics, banned from representing Great Britain at the Olympics, and stripped of all medals won since 2002 (whilst using PEDs)
  • Having served the two year ban (and in the mean time tried his hand at American Football and Rugby League) Chambers is now competing again, and hopes to contest his life-time Olympic ban

Last week Chambers ran 100m in 10.26 at a competition in Greece, and thus qualified to compete at the British Olympic trials in Birmingham on 11 July. Should he run the qualifying time of 10.25 (distinctly likely judging by his speed in Greece) the only thing standing between Chambers and Beijing is the UK Athletics ban, which he plans to challenge in London’s High Court.

Dwain Chambers Rugby League

If Adrian Warner is to be believed there is a good chance that Chambers will be successful.

Dwain Chambers and Seb CoeThis situation has polarised opinion, with pretty much every British athlete (past or present) asked, backing the ban and emphasising the importance of a zero-tolerance approach to PEDs. On the other hand (according to Warner) even”the former head of the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) Dick Pound has often said that it’s hard to legally justify punishing an athlete for the same offence twice.”

Bob does have sympathy for Chambers, who has clearly been punished greatly for his mistake, and now believes that he could win an Olympic medal (though he might struggle to keep up with Usain Bolt). For any athlete, the frustration of not being able to prove themselves on the Olympic stage must be enormous – just look at what Oscar Pistorius has been going through. And his efforts to warn people away from making his mistakes should be applauded.

However, as the Olympics approach it looks only too likely that there may be more stories of athletes on PEDs beating athletes who have resisted the temptation to cheat. Will the presence of athletes like Chambers muddy these waters further…?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »