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Beijing Shooting Range Hall

The great Chinese party is well and truly underway, but at the shooting range this morning it felt like it had been thoroughly pooped.

After the most lavish Opening Ceremony ever staged, the home nation planned to be celebrating the first gold medal of the games by half way through the first morning.

Du Li did it in Athens - could she do it in Beijing too?

The crowd of slightly bleary-eyed Chinese journalists who joined me on the 7.10am media bus to Shijingshan full expected her to be celebrating a successful defence of her title in the 10m air rifle by around 10.50am.

The fans pouring into the venue were all waving red flags with yellow stars on.

1.3bn people expecting a glorious start to the games - the pressure on Du's slender shoulders couldn't have been greater...

She'd already talked about the problem of performing in front of her home fans.

In competitions overseas she wasn't put off by the chatter of the crowd, because she couldn't understand what they were saying - in China, she could.

"Mother tongue interference", her coach called it.

I don't think I can take the blame for putting her off - my Mandarin still only extends to two words - but I found myself whispering like Ted Lowe at the Crucible when Radio 5 Live crossed to me for live updates during the final.

Du was already trailing in fourth place after qualifying. Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic had demolished the field with a world record equalling score of 400 - effectively shooting 40 bullseyes in a row.

And as Emmons kept popping her shots into the centre circle of her target, Du was spraying hers around all over the place.

The crowd groaned, the flags sagged, Du looked more and more downcast, and as she slipped to fifth she broke down in tears, and fled the range without talking to reporters.

A sad ending to the first morning on the range for China - but if you're a sucker for happy endings, here's one for you.

emmons_kiss_getty438.jpg

At the Athens Olympics, Katerina Emmons was working as a guest commentator for TV on a day off from her own competition, and she found herself watching the final of the men's 50m three position event.

The defending champion from America needed only to hit the target with his final shot to retain the gold medal. Inexplicably, he fired at completely the wrong target, registered no points and finished 8th.

At the end of the competition, Katerina left her commentary position to commiserate with the young shooter. His name was Matthew Emmons, and - you guessed it - they fell in love, and married last year.

Matthew will have another go at winning back his gold in the final shooting event of the Games a week on Sunday. Get ready for those Golden Couple headlines if he does it...


Comments

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  • 1. At 1:16pm on 09 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    As a Chinese, I'm glad a non-Chinese won the first gold medal.

    It's much less important for China to be the top player at as many games as possible, than for everyone who participates or cares to have a great time in the next two weeks.

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  • 2. At 10:25pm on 09 Aug 2008, Dr_Grammar wrote:

    bitterblogger, that's a noble sentiment in keeping with the spirit of the Olympic games.

    Are you really the same bitterblogger who complains 'bitterly' every time an article is not 100% complimentary to China?

    Anyway, enough of that. Congratulations on the Olympics your nation is hosting, they already look as though they'll be the best ever. And I know from experience how hospitable most Chinese people are.

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  • 3. At 01:59am on 10 Aug 2008, Grazman wrote:

    I have no problem with Chinese people-I have taught many Chinese students-but the Chinese regime is one of the most odious on the planet and I find it utterly despicable that they are being allowed to showcase themselves like this. Shame on them and shame on all the sycophantic politicians who pander to them.

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  • 4. At 04:06am on 10 Aug 2008, Wilo wrote:

    I agree completely with Grazman. I love the Chinese people, the Chinese culture, heritage etc. I speak Mandarin, and have lived in Mainland China and other Chinese-speaking parts of the world. However I can't find a better word than 'despicable' for the willingness with which governments and sporting bodies jump into bed with the authoritarian and repressive regime in Beijing which has no regard whatsoever for human rights or environmental responsibility.

    Can we really be "heralding the emergence of China into the modern world" after the year we've just had? Absolutely astonishing.

    But Beijing has been very effective, especially amongst Chinese citizens, in painting anyone who is against the Chinese government as being "anti-Chinese". This is highly regrettable, but perhaps more so is the way in which the support of most of the rest of the world for the Beijing Olympics serves to reinforce that impression.

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  • 5. At 06:02am on 10 Aug 2008, rvsmethurst wrote:

    Grazman and wilo108, in keeping with your shrill protestations on human rights, perhaps you should first boycott everything American and prevent the USA from 'showcasing' itself - after all I can't think of many regimes more brazen and dismissive of human rights than the Bush administration with its illegal wars and Abu Ghraibs and Patriot Acts and Gitmos and nineteen-year old trigger-happy soldiers.

    But your naivete bothers me more than your hypocrisy. Surely it is better to engage than to ostracize. An event like the Beijing Olympics is exactly the right kind of thing to bring down the barriers and pave the way towards a modern, progressively thinking China.

    Isolating and boycotting a country because of its repressive regime - what a novel idea - we have all seen what wonders this approach has accomplished in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Myanmar ...

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  • 6. At 07:25am on 10 Aug 2008, boils wrote:

    I loved the 56 ethnic minority kids who were paraded at the open ceremony.

    its a standard line of a Chinese student to talk of the 56 recognised ethnic minorities in China.

    Of course recognition is useful. It provides the data for the central planners who can then shift more Han Chinese into those ethnic areas to dampen any independent thought.

    And the comments above are all bang on he money.

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  • 7. At 07:27am on 10 Aug 2008, Wilo wrote:

    rvsmethurst,

    i take your point about the US - there aren't really any good guys here, and the unilateral disregard for international opinion shown by Washington is probably only exceeded by Beijing. However, as anti-Bush as I am (dare I say, as one hopes all right-thinking people are), I can't in all conscience compare even the illegal war in Iraq with the brutal and systematic campaigns of oppression and repression carried out in Tibet, Tajikistan etc.

    "An event like the Beijing Olympics is exactly the right kind of thing to bring down the barriers and pave the way towards a modern, progressively thinking China."

    Well, I would agree with that, except it hasn't, has it? In any way whatsoever. In fact, the run-up to the games has seen heavier crack-downs on freedom of expression than hitherto. In the name of "National Unity".

    Isolating regimes is clearly not the way to go, I think that's clear. But rewarding them, slapping them on the back and "giving them face" for offering precisely *nothing* (at least, I can't think of anything) in terms of concessions to "modern, progressive thinking", and consistently ignoring their international responsibilities, seems to be going too far the other way, don't you think?

    The Olympic Games is the greatest symbol of international unity and the highest aspirations of humankind that we have, and I feel that it's been sadly tarnished this year. The Olympic Games has been used as a rallying call for Chinese nationalism, not internationalism, and as an excuse for Beijing to get rid of a few more of those who disagree with their views. This is surely about as far from the Olympic Spirit as can be imagined.

    With regard to your last point, I think it's generally accepted that the sporting embargo played a role in the ending of the apartheid regime in South Africa, isn't it? And on the flip-side, I think that the ICC's mealy-mouthed and spineless stance over Zimbabwe - i.e. refusing to isolate them despite, just like Beijing, their refusal to meet any of the promises they so easily give - has played a role in Mugabe's continuing control.

    What do you think?

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  • 8. At 07:57am on 10 Aug 2008, heryanta wrote:

    rvsmethurst, there is a greater need to put pressure on the Chinese government than the US government.

    why? because the Bush administration will for sure go away in November ... and that, is one of the biggest benefits of democracy, unlike oppressive governments in say Myanmar or North Korea who use the barrels of guns to stay in power.



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  • 9. At 08:09am on 10 Aug 2008, British4Medals wrote:

    I am getting sick and tired of the Olympic sports panel talking about Personal Best(PB) in Swimming.I am a dual citizen born in Britain but also have American citizenship.I want Britain to win desperately in Swimming BUT IT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH WHEN WE CONTINUE TO EMPHASISE ON PB's and not winning a medal.When these swimmers come 6th,7th or 8th they come on the TV and say "Oh! I had a PB". Who cares! we want you to mount the podium!.If you want to mount that podium then aim for the World record PB and then you can get a medal.

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  • 10. At 09:42am on 10 Aug 2008, ishkandar wrote:

    British4Medals -" Personal Best" is the modern equivalent of the old "I say, old chap, well played, what. Shame about the score, though !"

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  • 11. At 09:52am on 10 Aug 2008, Grazman wrote:

    rvsmethurst,

    I don't disagree at all with your comments about the USA. In fact I would make the same point about America as I did about China; nice people, awful regime.

    My argument is that the Olympics are happening now, in China, and its repressive and totally undemocratic regime is blatantly using them for propaganda purposes and our politicians are going along with that.

    As regards boycotting repressive regimes, I seem to remember it had an effect on Apartheid South Africa.

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  • 12. At 11:36am on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    "I seem to remember it had an effect on Apartheid South Africa."

    Yeah an effect of white south Africans' exodus and spiralling violence left behind.

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  • 13. At 11:46am on 10 Aug 2008, Dr_Grammar wrote:

    Back again bitterblogger? Is there a team of you in that office in Beijing? Guess it is a rainy day there.

    I suppose you're stirring the pot with that SA comment (have you lived there then?), sure you'll get many replies if that's what you're after.

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  • 14. At 11:53am on 10 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    Sports like shooting seem to be more mental than physical - to be able to stand on the biggest stage of your career, know that one mistake could blow it completely, and yet stay calm enough to shoot straight must take amazing self control.

    Sporting boycotts - someone else can do all the sacrifices, we get to feel smug? Can people make sure they haven't bought any Chinese manufactured goods and products before they start pontificating? And I mean really make sure, not just say you can't think of any.

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  • 15. At 12:21pm on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    "Back again bitterblogger? Is there a team of you in that office in Beijing?"

    Can you find more arrogant and ignorant post than this?

    Yes, you definitely can in here. Anyone disagrees you is just a pawn of the Chinese government.

    Just stay on in your dreams.

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  • 16. At 12:22pm on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    "I suppose you're stirring the pot with that SA comment (have you lived there then?), sure you'll get many replies if that's what you're after."

    Who the hell quoted SA on China in the first place?

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  • 17. At 12:25pm on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    "I suppose you're stirring the pot with that SA comment (have you lived there then?), sure you'll get many replies if that's what you're after."

    I have never lived there, but FYI I have had more than a dozen of SA colleagues in my past and current jobs here in the UK.

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  • 18. At 12:30pm on 10 Aug 2008, Dr_Grammar wrote:

    Well, bitterblogger, I actually welcome disagreement, but I guess I don't know many people who would spend 20 hours a day on these boards churning out insults with quite the same appetite as you (/your team). Are you responsible for the BBC blogs or do you cover the UK newspapers as well? Anyway, good job!

    Enjoy the rest of your day and congrats again on the Olympics, they've been great so far.

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  • 19. At 12:50pm on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    "but I guess I don't know many people who would spend 20 hours a day on these boards churning out insults with quite the same appetite as you (/your team)"

    So again, you can dream on. What you are doing is nothing more noble than your alledged insults of mine.

    At least I talk of truth, facts that you can find everywhere in your own media.

    You, like so many in the West, are just so used to sterotyping us before having any credible evidence.

    Look at all you have posted on me, every one starts with questioning who I really am.

    What a pathetic mentality?

    Yes, on weekends, I spend hours and hours on my PC surfing internet, watching BBC live coverage of Olympics online, programming to enhance my work related skills, talking to friends via Skype and Live messenger....

    Too much work for old hacks who have to get a 10 hour sleep and 8 cups of coffee to be sober enough after a friday night out?

    Sorry for you!

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  • 20. At 1:16pm on 10 Aug 2008, Dr_Grammar wrote:

    Well, bitterblogger, I guess we're both guilty of generalisations then, as I get too little sleep (work in the City), hardly ever drink and spend a large part of my weekends learning Mandarin (still poor at it, but trying).

    The reason I question you is that most of my Chinese friends don't slag off the whole country and its people every time they disagree with the tone of a one journalist's blog. Can't we separate criticism of media/govts from generalisations about ordinary people?

    I've seen many "suspicious" posts in the UK online media recently (same comments/spelling, different usernames etc) which are clearly from an organised source, but I'm sure you'll disagree with that too. Yours do seem different and better-written, so if I got that wrong I apologise.

    Don't want to bore everyone with this one on one discussion so think I'll leave it there. I'm sorry you hate this country so much and yet have to live here, but I hope the average person reading your posts doesn't think all Chinese are this bitter - as you say, stereotypes can be dangerous and are easily formed. Peace!

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  • 21. At 3:55pm on 10 Aug 2008, rvsmethurst wrote:

    Dr_Grammar and bitterblogger, sorry, can you guys like get a room? ;)

    Grazman and wilo, the China of today is very different from the China of Mao ... and that is something that wouldn't have happened with the world boycotting China. It's precisely the fact that China started selling to everyone else and reaping the economic benefits that - dare I say - have made this 'communist' country more capitalist than many in Europe. The more they trade, the more affluent the average Chinese gets, the more they travel, the more they interact with the wider world, the more their children get educated abroad, the more liberal they become. Granted it's not going to happen overnight - but I see a China that has changed dramatically in the last 30 years (don't you?) and I see no reason for complete pessimism about further change.

    Contrast this with an isolationist approach that will allow the government to make even bigger bugbears of the 'evil West' and stoke even more jingoism than they are able to now.

    South Africa's quite a different kettle of fish. They would not have been in a position to unite their people against the rest of the world in an us-vs.-them manner the way the Chinese or North Korean regimes could.

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  • 22. At 4:24pm on 10 Aug 2008, bitterblogger wrote:

    @Dr_Grammar

    If anything I said in other posts was offending or insulting in a generalizing way, I appologize too.

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  • 23. At 7:59pm on 11 Aug 2008, hackerjack wrote:

    Yawn.


    Must you lot turn every post during this olympics into the same tiresome arguments about China, USA and Russia?

    Yes those arguments dserve airing, but please air them in the right forum and stop spoiling our sporting threads with your petty bickering.


    Congratulations to Emmons, I know from experience how difficult it is to even put 40 shots in the 8 ring never mind ten dots under any conditions never mind the pressure of an olympic games.

    Such a shame that this country will likely never produce another champion like this (once Mick Gault goes for good) because of the total lack of support for the sport. The waste of money temporary 2012 facility is a prime example of te lack of support for a sport where we have a great deal of unharnessed natural talent. Currently we have some of the best under-30 year old shooters we have ever had but without support they will never make the top level.

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  • 24. At 11:49am on 15 Aug 2008, derekjoe wrote:

    Yeah, stupid discussion about the first gold medal totally ruined Du Li's 10m rifle match. No shooter can survive under that kind of pressure.

    Now I'm so happy Du Li won the other match in 3p rifle. Anyway she's a great shooter and a lovely girl.

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