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Beijing Olympics 2008

Loughborough University's Beijing Blog

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!)

Loughborough University - Beijing 2008

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