The Olympics

The Olympics


News, information and stories about the Olympics.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympic Stamps Issued

Royal Mail and China Post have jointly issued a special set of stamps to mark the handover of the Olympic Flag from Beijing to London.

See them on The Telegraph's site.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

No Laughing Matter

The Daily Telegraph reports that some Brits are a little unhappy with the quality of the British handover ceremony during the Beijing closing ceremony.


"Britons proud of their athletes' achievements have vented their frustrations at being left 'the laughing stock of the world' by the show, which featured rocker Jimmy Page, X-Factor winner Leona Lewis and footballer David Beckham."

They need to remember two things:

1 Beijing spent far more money on the games, than we allegedly are going to do

2 It is the British way to self deprecate

The 2012 games face enough challenges (eg lousy budgeting, lousy organisation etc) to live up to the Chinese games. Quite simply put, we will not outdo the Chinese on their terms.

The best way for us to try to make the best of a bad job is to put on a thoroughly British games, ie quirky and humorous.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Closing Ceremony Beijing 2008

The closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and handover to London for the 2012 games went without a hitch, and Boris Johnson's speech was a hoot.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Bad Karma

Gordon Brown, Britain's Prime Minister, finally made it to Beijing to watch the tail end of the games and to attend the closing ceremony.

Needless to say, given Brown's penchant for attracting bad luck, some wags have pointed out that his arrival will herald the end of Britain's better than expected performance at the games.

The Prime Minister's presence at sporting events to watch home teams compete has invariably resulted in defeat.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Respect is Due

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has criticised the double gold medallist Usain Bolt for unsporting behaviour following his victories in the 100m and 200m.

In the final part of the 100m race Bolt slowed down and turned to the crowd, and opened his hands in a gesture that looked like he was mocking his seven other opponents.

Rogge said:

"I have no problem with him doing a show.

I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 metres.

I understand the joy. He might have interpreted that in another way, but the way it was perceived was 'catch me if you can'. You don't do that. But he'll learn. He's still a young man

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Closing Ceremony

All good things come to an end, so it is with the Olympics as thoughts now turn to the closing ceremony in Beijing on 24th August.

Spanish tenor Placido Domingo will perform with Chinese soprano star Song Zuying on the last day. Following on from the fuss over certain TV "enhancements" made to the opening ceremony, it is assumed that they will both be live and not CGI animations!

The closing program will also feature elements of southwestern China's Yunnan culture, together with a kung fu display featuring 350 practitioners from a local martial arts school and 60 players of the Chinese string instrument "erhu."

There will also be an 8 minute dance show to mark the handover from Beijing to London for the 2012 games. Seemingly David Beckham will appear during this segment, atop a London bus.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will also finally turn up; unless of course he manages to find an excuse not to.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Empty Seats

Before the Olympics began, Beijing Olympic organisers claimed that that all the 6.8 million tickets to Olympic events had been sold.

However, it seems that there are empty seats in the Bird's Nest and other venues.

Organisers are trying to "save face" by bussing in people from soccer fan clubs, high schools, and local neighborhoods to fill the empty seats. However, it is still not working, on 11th of August there were 20 competitions in the 18 stadiums attended by 40,000 spectators. Only two of stadiums were more than 90% full, six were more than 80% full and over half had at least 30% of seats empty.

One factor being blamed is the weather. However, the most likely cause is the fact that corporate sponsors and VIP's are allocated vast swathes of tickets that they never use.

The key to making future Olympics successful, wrt crowd attendance, is to give the games back to the people and allocate less tickets to faceless corporate sponsors who never turn up.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

China Bashing

The hypocrisy of some parts of the western media appears to know no bounds when it comes to having a go at China.

On Friday, reports emerged that the children who carried the Chinese flag in a show of national unity at the Beijing opening ceremonies were not from the 56 ethnic groups they were purported to represent.

Given the lies and distortions published by the media in the West, to criticise the Chinese for this is hypocrisy of the highest level.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Blue Skies

Contrary to the expectations of some people before the games, the air quality in Beijing has actually been reasonably good thanks to the anti pollution measures taken by the authorities and a heavy storm that blew it away.

The skies above Beijing are currently clear and blue.

International Olympic Committee's medical commission chairman, Arne Ljungqvist, said:

"The information so far is very encouraging. The recent... days have had very good air conditions indeed.

There is no indication that there will be a problem in the near future

However, World Health Organisation China chief Hans Troedsson noted that pollution in Beijing still presented long-term health risks to residents.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Verbal Punch Up at Press Conference

Wei Wang, the secretary general of the Beijing organising committee, expressed his displeasure about the behaviour of some members of the international media for coming to China "to peek, to be critical, to dig into the small details and find fault" in the country's human rights record".

He vented his spleen during the IOC-Bocog press conference, as journalists pressed him to reveal how many Chinese citizens had been granted permission to use the three Protest Parks set up for the Games. Wei Wang claimed twice that he had not been given figures from the Office of Public Security.

"After 30 years of reform China has developed greatly. People enjoy more freedom. People are living a good life. Everyone is happy. That's a fact. Of course there are exceptions, like in any other country. But they need to take the legal process and procedures to resolve any issues. We cannot allow this country to be in chaos.

There are a few people who have come here to peek, to be critical, to dig into the small details and find fault. This does not mean that we are not fulfilling our promises [over human rights to the IOC]. The whole country can see how can China has developed; how China has genuinely welcomed the world to enjoy everything with us

The IOC was given a rough ride by Alex Thomson, a Channel 4 journalist, who asked as to whether it was "in any way embarrassed" by the Chinese government "lying through its teeth" about keeping its promises to improve human rights and press freedom.

The IOC communication's director, Giselle Davies, did not answer the question but instead said:

"We have to note that there have been enormous steps forward in a number of areas".

Thomson kept pressing and asked how the IOC felt about the "manifest failure of the Chinese government to keep their promises." Davies refused to answer, saying that the IOC was "very proud about how these Games are progressing".

Thomson kept up the attack:

"I'm not asking about how well the Games are being run, or how wonderful the Games are.

Are you embarrassed by China?

I don't think anyone thinks you have answered the question

Davies said:

"The Olympic Games is largely about the athletes and they have given us extremely strong feedback about how things are going."

Thomson was by now fending off two volunteers, who were trying to take the microphone from him. However, he soldiered on:

"We're not getting anywhere are we?

Are the IOC embarrassed about the Chinese governments record on human rights? One more chance

Davies ignored the question and said:

"We have to note the enormous steps in the wider area.

The world is watching and the IOC is appraising

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fakery Accusations

Having basked in the glow of excellent viewing figures, NBC and the Beijing Olympic Committee are now having to face accusations from some quarters over fakery wrt their broadcast of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

The organisers have been accused of adding fake CGI fireworks to the opening ceremony. NBC have been accused of adding a bogus "Live" stamp to their prime time delayed feed of competition coverage this weekend, and edited the "parade of nations" segment of the opening ceremony to delay the entrance of the US Olympic Team.

Can anyone ever truly believe what they see on TV? runs through the accusation point by point, including NBC's responses:

Accusation: Viewers were misled by the use of CGI fireworks during a sweeping helicopter shot ( video clip here) leading up to the Bird's Nest. Organizers note the fireworks were there, but the footage was created in advance due to the danger of shooting live from a nearby helicopter.

NBC Response: An NBC Sports spokesperson says U.S. viewers were informed of the manipulation. Commentators Matt Lauer and Bob Costas said the fireworks were a digital effect. From the opening ceremony transcript during the fireworks in question:

Lauer: "You're looking at a cinematic device employed by Zhang Yimou here. This is actually almost animation. A footstep a second, 29 in all, to signify the 29 Olympiads."

Costas: "We said earlier that aspects of this Opening Ceremony are almost like cinema in real time. Well this is quite literally cinematic."

Analysis: Mixing real and CGI fireworks during an Olympic event is visually misleading, though NBC did try to address the issue. The question is, during a spectacular-looking shot, do the phrases "cinematic device" and "almost animation" really convey that the image wasn't real?

It seems more to hint that something about it wasn't quite literal, while coming shy of saying - in far more clear and simple terms - "this is a digitally manufactured shot to represent what's happening right now outside the stadium."

Accusation: NBC is time stamping West Coast feeds of competition coverage with a "Live" tag even though the coverage is not live.

NBC Response: A spokesperson points out the constant "Live" tag is accompanied by twice-per-hour time stamps that inform West Coast viewers that the event was only live on the East Coast (ex. "10:05 ET").

"The audience makeup of the Olympics is very much like that of 'American Idol' and 'Dancing with the Stars' which have 'live' season finales presented in much the same way," an NBC Sports spokesperson says. "You assume there's a large amount of intelligence in the viewing audience, so when they see those twice-an-hour time stamps they'll understand what is being presented."

Analysis: If a sporting event's feed isn't live, a broadcaster should avoid using an omnipresent "live" tag. The best reason to have this tag on a West Coast feed (and to not put a clear "tape delayed" notice) is for the same reason some are incensed – it gives viewers an impression of live urgency that isn't quite there. Like with the fireworks, the original complaint is mollified by the facts, to a degree: to a casual viewer the coverage shows one thing, while to somebody paying close attention, it shows something slightly less exciting.

Accusation: NBC edited the "parade of nations" from the original order to delay the entrance of US. athletes.

NBC Response: An NBC Sports spokesman says the order was unchanged.

Analysis: Editing a sporting event like a reality show to save the most eagerly awaited moments for the conclusion would be an issue - if it were true. As it is, online reports have provided no real evidence.

The Times also reports that the "cute" girl who sang at the opening ceremony was merely lip synching, the real girl who sang was deemed to be too "ugly" for TV.

Oh dear, it really is rather silly to try to pull the wool over people's eyes like this!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Record Audience

The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics pulled in a record number of TV viewers around the world.

NBC in the USA, despite not showing the event live and delaying it to primetime, managed to score its highest ever rating (over 34 million viewers) for a non-American hosted summer Olympics aside from the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

In China between 63% and 68.8% of China's total audience, a record, watched the opening ceremony.

In Australia, the Seven Network said that its audience was over 3.3 million viewers. In Germany, 7.7 million watched it on ARD; in France, 4.4 million watched it on France 2 and in Italy, 5.5 million watched on RAI. The BBC had an audience of 5 million.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Special Protest Zones

Mindful of criticism over the lack of free speech during the Beijing Olympics, China has authorised the right of protest in specially designated "protest zones" dotted around Beijing.

They are hidden away in hard-to reach suburbs, seven miles from the main Olympic stadium. There are also rules about who can demonstrate, and what they can demonstrate about.

In order to protest, the "protestee" must apply for a permit at the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) five days before the planned protest. They must fill out an application that specifies the purpose and time of the protest, what will happen during it, the slogans that will be written on banners and posters, the estimated number of protesters and whether megaphones or any form of amplified sound equipment will be used. Foreigners have to go through the same procedure, and make sure their application is in Mandarin.

The protest must also comply with Chinese law on public demonstrations.

Protests that threaten the territorial unity of China are illegal, so protests demanding freedom for Tibet are of course banned.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Scenes From the Opening Ceremony

Scenes from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games 2008:

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Opening Ceremony

The Beijing Olympics will kick off in less than an hour (8:08PM local time) today. Unfortunately, Beijing is shrouded in fog and haze, and is sweltering in hot and humid conditions.

Those who are in the Bird's Nest stadium tonight will experience temperatures in the low 30s Celsius and humidity above 80%.

However, Jacques Rogge (President of the IOC) remains optimistic, he is quoted on Bloomberg:

"The fog does not mean necessarily pollution.

We prefer clear skies but the most important thing is that the health of the athletes is protected

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Olympics Junket

With the Beijing Olympics due to kick off tomorrow, the British government has come under fire over the cost to the public purse (estimated at being £7M) of sending public servants to Beijing.

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who is avoiding the opening ceremony will fly out to attend the closing ceremony and will be accompanied by 20 aides at a cost of £114,000. On top of that many other bodies, involved in organising the 2012 London games, are sending representatives.

In total, 639 people at a cost of £6,846,700 will attend.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster said:

"While appreciating the importance of the UK being represented in Beijing, questions have to be asked if this many people are necessary.

I'm staggered by the amount of money some departments are spending on sending their staff.

It almost looks as if some public officials have been dreaming up excuses to go on a junket

Unfortunately, people do love a jolly junket!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Sweet Smell of Bullshit

The Sweet Smell of Bullshit
The IOC would have the world believe that internet access in China, for the period of the Olympics, is more or less free and unfettered for the foreign journalists who are camped en masse there.

The IOC released a statement:

"The media should be seeing a noticeable difference in accessibility to websites that they need to report on the Olympic Games.

Open Internet access has always been assured by [Beijing Organising Committee] and the Chinese authorities, and the IOC is pleased to see these reassurances being upheld

All very nice, except for one small problem.

It is bullshit!

Thousands of sites remain unavailable to both journalists and Beijing residents; including TypePad, LiveJournal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Technorati, parts of Wikipedia and the Huffington Post. has a "China Firewall test" tool, which lets users input a site's address to see if it's working in Beijing. Why not try it out for yourself?

Free Website Test tools by WebSitePulse

The IOC does not come out of this very well at all.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ticket Scam

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is taking action against that has allegedly been operating an Olympic ticketing scam.

It is reported that many hundreds of people in Britain, America, Belgium and Australia have paid the site approximately £30K for non existent tickets and accommodation.

The hapless purchasers have been arriving in Beijing only to find that their purchases have yielded them nothing.

The site is now offline and "parked".

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Haze Returns

Despite a recent bout of clear skies and breathable air, with the Olympic games due to start this Friday, Beijing has woken up today to a return of the dreaded haze. This despite that fact that organisers have closed factories and removed over 1.5 million cars from the roads.

There are now plans being considered to seed the clouds to induce rainfall to clear the skies.

Failing that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that it may reschedule endurance events, such as the marathon, to prevent health risks if the pollution continues.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Web Access in Beijing

The IOC have announced that Chinese and international organisers are working on a compromise to unblock censored websites for the foreign media.

Despite the fact that Beijing has unblocked a number of banned sites, including Amnesty International, there are others that remain blocked.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has promised free and unrestricted net access for foreign journalists during the games.

The IOC and the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, have set up a working group to determine which remaining censored websites can be opened up to reporters.

With nine days to go, they will have their work cut out!

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