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Loughborough University

Beijing Olympics 2008

Loughborough University's Beijing Blog

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Olympic mascots

The 5 Olympic mascots are seen all over town at every event. Photo shows me and "Jingjing" meeting Tom Gee of EMDA outside the Workers Gymnasium before the boxing.

Needs confirmation but I think a rough transllation of the names of each of the five mascots is "Bei", "Jing", "Welcomes" ,"You to", "2018" ... or something like that. If anyone reading this knows better please let me know!

Loughborough Alum at Hockey

"Loughborough is for Life" more Loughborough Alum including Hockey Player, Adam Harper meet outside the hockey ground just before GB play South Africa

We visited the Olympic Hockey Stadium this evening. Had the usual poor spectator experience we are now geting used to here with access to the stadium blocked for taxis, poor directions and everyone expected to use one single entry point (which is usually miles from the right place). The organisers don't seem to want to have to cope with multiple entries to each park. Transport is also a problem, either in getting close but also leaving events. Instead of people being able to leave from all points of a stadium they all leave from a single point which swamps the transport.

One last gripe before moving on to the more positive! The concessions for food and drink and anything else are really poor. Lack of variety of food and drinks, very few places to buy and consequently long long queues at every selling point.

However after all these obstacles have been negotiated the stadiums themselves are great. Hockey last night appears to be a temporary structure but well designed and great views all round. Great to see the large number of orange-clad Dutch supporters who are really here to have a good time;they add a real noise and fun level even though their team was not playing. Same goes for the Aussies. It was great to have yet another group see the Loughborough logo and come up and introduce themselves. The guys in the picture had been travelling throughout Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before arriving in Beijing. They will have enjoyed ,like us, watching GB beat South Africa 2-0 in the preliminaries - although they did make hard work of it.
It was a particularly satisfying win because our meeting after the game was with my opposite number from Stellenbosch University, Kelly Fairweather. It was good to see Kelly again, he was instrumental in helping to set up the warm-weather training for our track and field squad earlier this year and we are in the final stages of agreeing a staff and student exchange programme.
Earlier in the day I visted "Japan House" with Tracy Croft (EMDA) to meet with our friends from the Japanese Olympic Committee. Their home is in a hotel not far from the famous Silk Market and Beijing Railway station. It has all the comforts of home for their sponsors, staff, athletes, coaches and media. Very similar to Canada House which is near the Crown Plaza hotel.

Masa, Ya-ya, Chris and Tracy at Japan House

The main hospitality room at Japan House

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Wednesday 13th

Smog factor high - difficult to see the Bird's Nest Studium from more than two blocks away in the morning. Sun burned through later in the day but this combined with the heat and humidity will mean only the best prepared marathon runners will be able to cope on Sunday.

After watching the swimming finals in the morning had lunch in the Olympic Park. They sell self-heating pot noodle-type meals which are great fun to eat. Meal interupted when an old Chinese man collapsed in front of me. Luckily I was beaten to him by a South African doctor who started to put him in the recovery position but who was firmly pushed away by a guy who said he was a Chinese doctor. Blue shirted volunteers went into frenzy of activity and the old man was whisked away in an ambulance within 5 minutes of collapsing. Very efficient and I hope he is now ok but the South African doctor thought he had suffered a heart attack.

In the evning we hosted an evening for our Alum at our base at Tsinghua. About 40 turned up and it was a real pleasure to meet them, hear their stories and soak up their enthusiasm and passion for Loughborough. Several had met at the University and were now life-long friends. For others it was a chance to see old friends. A great networking evening with lots of face-book addresses and cards swapped. We will try to post photos of the evening on this site later today.

Couple more media interviews today including a live interview with BBC Radio Leicester and BBC World Service.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Wednesday Catch Up

Tuesday and Wednesday have been taken up in a flurry of media interest in the fact that the guy who lit the Olympic torch, Li Ning, is an honorary graduate from Loughborough University. The press here seem to have made the connection with Li Ning and the high number of Loughborough-based athletes and support staff in Team GB. The interview I had with the reporter from the People's Daily newspaper concentrated on making comparisons between the support Loughborough gives to elite sportsmen and women with that given by Chinese universities. There has been massive investment in sporting facilities at Universities in and around Beijing, not only to improve support for Chinese athletes but also for foreign teams in their final preparations. When we try to get close to the diving centre here at Tsinghua University we are quietly but firmly shooed away; it is thought but not confirmed that the Chinese dynamic synchro diving pair were doing their final preparations here and that the Russion squad are also using the outstanding facilities.

On Tuesday evening a couple of us went to see the feather and light-weight boxing competition. Transport around the city is really easy. If you have an Olympic ticket for a competition you get free access to both buses and tube transport. Taxis are plentiful and very very cheap. We made our way down to the Workers Gymnasium (again lots of signs of refurbishment), entry into the arena was simple with many many many blue-shirted volunteers politely pointing us in the right direction. The arena was only three-quarters full which seems to be a common problem, with many of the empty seats having been bought, but not occupied, by corporate sponsors. Buying refreshments at a break between bouts also showed that the host nation are not short of labour. One person takes your order, another takes your money, a third shouts back to the team to get drinks from the freezers and another hands your purchase to you! The atmosphere in the boxing really only became heated for the final bout of the evening when the only Chinese boxer of the night took to the ring. I have rarely seen so much passion (and pressure) directed by so many people into one person in such a concentrated period of time. The noise level was incredible...the boxer was clearly affected by it and went on to win by what we thought was a couple of pretty dubious decisions - not that we would have shared that with the thousands of fanatical Chinese supporters around us!

Everyone is still absorbed by the performance of our swimmers and work stops when the shout goes up that another Team GB member is in the pool. Several of the group based with us are at the swimming each day, begging, swapping or buying tickets whenever they can. Tickets for events are relatively easy to come by if you let it be known that you are looking for them. You see lots of people with handwritten signs in English and Chinese asking for or exchanging tickets. We went to the repecharge stages of the rowing today and were offered more tickets (at cheap face value) by a group of Aussies who had just seen their friend qualify for the men's 8 final and wanted to use the days before the final to go and visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc.

Tomorrow, Thursday is more swimming and my first chance to see inside the swimming "cube" since I visited it as a building site 18 months ago. Early afternoon I am supposed to do a live interview with BBC Radio Leicester (2.25pm here, 7.25am Thursday morning in Leicester!). They want to hear more about the evening reception we are holding for former Loughborough students living in Beijing. There are more than 50 confirmed to be here with us tomorrow evening and we suspect many more will turn up now that word has spread across the Loughborough Alum network in Beijing. . . just hope we have ordered enough food and drink!

If anyone is reading this and wants to know more about what we are up to or has any questions from us whilst we are here please email l.foden@lboro.ac.uk (Linda will love me even more for giving her email address!)


Monday, 11 August 2008

Arrival at Loughborough Base

We were greeted on our arrival in Beijing by a huge thunderstorm, torrential rain and really poor visibility. However the Olympic flame was clearly visible and shone through the gloom on our taxi journey from the airport to our base at Tsinghua University.

Various friends and supporters of our Loughborough Olympians have already started to arrive at our base at Tsinghua. Chris Kirton's coach, Russ Barber and his mum and dad had already arrived and joined the team for our first Chinese dinner yesterday evening. Mike Peyrebrune and Ian Oliver are already out and about. Tom Gee and Tracy Croft from East Midlands Development Agency have just this minute arrived and others are expected today.

The morning has been spent sorting out everybody's schedules - mixture of official functions and events. Tickets are very hard to come by and whenever you get a group of people who have got tickets together it's like watching youngsters exchanging top trump cards in the playground..."I've got that, I'll swap you that one, you can have that one, has anyone got one for..."

All our kit and pop-up display material arrived this morning, just in time for our "family and friends" reception this evening. All looks great (job well done Tamsyn!) and has made the place look like a little bit of Loughborough in Beijing. Email and internet all now up and running so if anyone wants to contact us we are her but remember 7 hours ahead of you in the UK.

We have two invaluable translators with us, Christina (one of our students) and Robin Jones (formerly of the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Lboro). Christine seems to specialise in making arrangements with the hotel staff and Robin has obviously worked hard on his Manderin vocabulary for meal-times!

Please keep checking out the site for more news of the Loughborough Olympians in action.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Day One of competition

The first day of Olympic competition was our most exciting so far in Beijing. We visited the Team GB lodge in the morning, where one of our Alumni is working for the duration of the Games.

This evening we went to the first swimming session. Six Loughborough athletes were in action – Euan Dale, Dean Milwain and Dave Carry in individual events and Julia Beckett, Caitlin McClatchey and Mel Marshall as part of the women’s 4x100m Freestyle.

The Cube (the main aquatics venue) is amazing. It is dwarfed by the neighbouring ‘Birds Nest’ but it is a large building unlike any I’ve seen before. It is futuristic in appearance with patchwork design external walls which change colour at night.

As well as the Brits we saw USA’s Michael Phelps who set a new Olympic record in the 400m Individual Medley and Australian David Hackett who swam in the 400m Freestyle.

Getting a taxi back to our base took a while as the roads were heaving with locals who had come to look at the Olympic Park and take photos, but with a bit of car dodging we managed to cross the road and get a ride back to the hotel.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Opening Ceremony

Last night we met up with colleagues from British Swimming to watch the opening ceremony on the big screen at the Crowne Plaze hotel next to the Olympic Park.

We were advised that roads around the Park would be closed so we travelled by the subway instead. The subway costs less than 20p for a one-way journey and carriages are air conditioned and very clean.

With no stop close to the hotel, and due to a slight navigation errors, we walked for over 30 minutes to get there. The streets were crowded with locals trying to get a view of 'the bird's nest', people were standing in the middles of the road and sat on the central reservation. It was very exciting and the Chinese were all in celebratory moods.

We were able to watch the majority of the ceremony on the big screen and could pop out of the front door of the hotel to see the fireworks.

Below are photos of the opening ceremony from our official photographer Nigel Farrow...

Loughborough University - Beijing 2008

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