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Goodness me. To think they used to just cut a ribbon.

Beijing's opening ceremony felt like a semi-religious rave, helmed by Cecil B DeMille, Leni Riefenstahl and late-era Pet Shop Boys and with music supplied by Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Like any decent opening shebang, the night was soaked in the sort of nightmarish weirdness that most of us only experience after eating too much soft cheese late at night.

Continue reading "Sensory overload at the opening ceremony"

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It's all very strange.

I'd been advised by locals to head for Kunming's downtown squares for the opening ceremony. The large outdoor screens there were bound to show live coverage, they said, and lots of people would gather to watch and celebrate.

But the streets were deserted. When I arrived at the squares they'd mentioned, the big screens were just showing adverts. No people and certainly no party atmosphere.

In the end I watched the opening ceremony by finding a corner shop and peering inside. A family of three generations was sitting there and let me watch too on their small television.

Continue reading "Kunming stays in for opening ceremony"

As I said to William Fox-Pitt as he walked up to me after his horses fetched some drama on Friday, "If we weren't sweating enough with the heat, we're definitely sweating buckets now." William's horse, Parkmore Ed, was asked to be represented to the ground jury during the afternoon's first course inspection.

As eventing is an endurance sport, a big part of it is the horse's welfare. Therefore there is a veterinary inspection before and between each phase of the competition. The dressage starts on Saturday, but this was the first time the horses have been inspected. There were loads of horses so the whole thing took two hours, and the British horses were some of the last to be inspected.

Until this point only a couple of lesser known horses from Brazil and Chile had failed and we were quietly feeling pretty confident that the Brits would pass with flying colours, so it was a serious shock to everyone watching when William's horse was suddenly asked to be seen again.

Continue reading "Parkmore Ed trots on to Olympic stage"

Yunnan Province is a far-flung corner of China, its south west tip. It's thousands of kms from Beijing and it feels it, with its lush tropical climate and large proportion of ethnic minorities.

But everyone I've talked to here in the provincial capital, Kunming, is excited about the Olympic Games.

Everyone is watching the opening ceremony, either gathered round TV sets at home with friends or at public TV screenings in hotels, bars or outdoor squares.

Why do they care?

Continue reading "Watching the Olympics from remote Yunnan"

While 90,000 people prepared to cram themsleves into the Birds' Nest to celebrate the opening of the 29th Olympiad, things were decidedly more low key back at Team GB's holding camp.

In fact, there was little sign of any ceremony at all, save for a sizeable chocolate cake especially prepared for the competitors still here, (namely the track and field squad and a handful of the judo team) emblazoned with the Olympic rings that have been expertly iced on top.

How suitable cake is for those about to grace the greatest sporting event on earth is a moot point.

Suffice to say, I'm hoping they'll be little take-up so I can indulge myself, having finally conceeded defeat as regards my chances of making the team.

Continue reading "Missing the opening ceremony is no big deal"

It is now pre-pre-race day - two days to go for us, one day for the smaller boats, and just a few hours until the opening ceremony.

Unfortunately, we cannot march in the stadium though, as the ceremony goes on until very late; it would be like going out for a big night out two days before racing.

It is a real shame, as the opening ceremony in Sydney was absolutely awes-inspiring and an experience I will never forget.

Continue reading "Rowers having our own opening ceremony"

After four days of being in the Olympic Village, I'm finally starting to get to know my way around.

This place is massive, it's like a small town and it's bigger than the village I come from in Cumbria.

It's been a good few days though mingling with the other athletes and being recognised by Lleyton Hewitt.

But with my competition starting tomorrow, it's time for final preparations.

Continue reading "Getting my bearings in a massive village"

Picking a symbol for the Olympic Spirit is the easy part. Defining the concept is also straightforward, but judging its relative standing in modern society isn't.

The symbolic emblems of the Spirit are the Olympic torch and the Olympic flame. Lit every four years in ancient Olympia in Greece, for these Beijing Games, the flame has been on an unprecedented intercontinental journey.

China's desire is for people everywhere to feel, live and understand its slogan "One World, One Dream". So the torch has been to places it never had before, highlighting the inclusiveness of the Olympic Games.

If you doubt that inclusiveness, consider that there are more competing teams in Beijing than there are members of the United Nations.

Continue reading "What is the essence of the Olympic Spirit?"


It is quite literally the burning issue: how will they light the Olympic cauldron tonight?

It's always the key moment of any opening ceremony (check out our photo gallery of ceremonies from years gone by here) - the one detail they keep totally hush-hush until the night itself, the iconic image designed to be remembered for years to come.

Back in the day, it was all so charmingly simple.

At the 1948 London Olympics, athlete John Mark simply jogged up to the cauldron and shoved the Olympic torch in. Whoosh. Bingo.


Continue reading "How will they light the Olympic flame tonight?"


Finding out the exact route of Saturday's men's cycling road race has been less than straight forward this week.

Maps are vague and inexact and you do sense that of all the events here at the Games, the road race is not one to which the Chinese hosts easily relate.

Our Chinese driver had numerous conversations with policemen and assorted roadside groups before we established what road we needed to be on near the Great Wall at Badaling.

Continue reading "Why 250km cycle route will favour Valverde"


One of the great inventions of the ancient Chinese world was gunpowder.

So it's not a great surprise that the first Olympic champion of the Beijing Games is very likely to be a Chinese shooter.

Du Li is the defending champion in the women's 10m air rifle (yes, I know that you don't need gunpowder to shoot an air rifle).

I'm expecting to see her crowned champion again at around 11am local time (4am UK time) on the first morning of the Games, surrounded by ecstatic local fans.

Du Li in action in April

Continue reading "Shooter Du Li set to win China's first gold"


The two questions I have been asked most frequently during the run up to these Games are:

How many medals will the Great Britain swimming team get? And can America's Michael Phelps win all eight golds in the events he is competing in?

The answer to question one is, as all observant readers of my previous blogs will know, that we will get more finalists than before and take it from there.

Regarding the second query, Phelps is more than capable of bettering Mark Spitz's efforts at the 1972 Munich Games, but he will have to rely on US colleagues backing him up in the relays and not thwarting his efforts in the five individual events.

Continue reading "Can US swim star Phelps win eight medals?"

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