Federer escapes Village after ‘joke’ conference

From Barry Newcombe, SJA Chairman
Beijing, Thursday:
Even cameramen with lengthy experience of Olympic ceremony are talking in awe of what is on the way from the Birds Nest tomorrow night when China opens its long awaited Games.

“I’ve been around of lot of Games and believe me this one is something special,” one who had seen the rehearsals told me.”It’s a combination of China past, present and future, and it will be stunning.”

â–¡ Sympathies to Paul Radford and the Reuters team, the family and relatives, after the death of former Reuters sports editor Steve Parry.

Parry was a well-known figure at Olympic occasions and furthered the cause of the Games, and the lot of his fellow sports journalists, with his service to the IOC Press Commission and the London 2012 bid campaign and latterly LOCOG.

â–¡ The arrival of world stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Olympic Village produced the biggest buzz of the pre-Games week as other competitors look for photo opportunities with the tennis giants.

Switzerland’s Federer, in his third Olympics, has decided to stay out of the Village after being besieged at a media appointment today. “There was a joke of a conference with him,” said Bob McKenzie of the Daily Express. “Half the room seemed to want to take his photo and were blocking the professionals at the back.”

â–¡ The Opening Ceremony starts at 8pm local time (1pm BST) before a capacity stadium audience of 91,000, which includes some 80 world leaders, from US President George W Bush onwards, who will make up the largest dignitary count in history outside the occasional royal wedding.

Naturally there will be some high-powered security around, some from a special squad which has been in training in Sichuan province, and then others who include the 600 unsmiling ones who look after President Bush.

There will be three and a half hours of all the ceremony, a big contribution by Sarah Brightman and a TV audience beyond imagination. Stand by as well for 320 renditions of the classic Chinese tune Molihua (Jasmine Flower), which will be used at medal ceremonies.

â–¡ A sign of the strict control on the news in China? At least one senior SJA committeeman only found out about Wednesday’s Free Tibet protests outside the Birds Nest stadium by phoning his wife in the Home Counties.

â–¡ Tomorrow’s date 08-08-08 (with the number 8 having special significance in China as those annoying ads by a certain Oriental-based bank) has been booked by more than 16,000 Beijing couples for their wedding day. Registrations have been going on since June and to complete the deal couples have to collect their marriage certificates tomorrow.

“Eight is such an auspicious number and with the opening of the Beijing Olympics the whole nation will be celebrating with us,” said one husband-to-be.”

â–¡ Smog Blog (after five days in Beijing): Blue skies 1, Smog 4. Though Jacques Rogge says everything is just fine.

â–¡ Did you know you shouldn’t yawn in front of an Egyptian? Apparently, it is the work of the devil. This and other pearls of wisdom are displayed on huge billboards in the streets here. All part of invaluable guidance on foreign etiquette.

“If you are invited to a foreigners house arrive at the time the host suggested. In case you are late, dont forget to apologise,” the advice goes on.

“In the West people usually provide some snacks and drinks so don’t refuse. Finish the drink you have accepted, but don’t force yourself if you are indeed not used to it.” Surely a message there somewhere?

What the billboards in Stratford advise four years from now?

â–¡ Talksport’s Ian Wright was intrigued to hear the latest on the aptly named “Messi affair” here. Barcelona and two German clubs are demanding their South American stars, including Lionel Messi, return to Europe from the Olympic football tournament.

For the record, “Wrighty” wasn’t convinced that football at the Olympics has a future, and he does have a point. FIFA and the IOC say they are looking into that one for 2012, but at the moment football’s the only sport at the Games with an upper age limit, and that is surely unsatisfactory?

â–¡ Details of all 39 Olympic sports venues can be found on a website, and all in nine different languages.

â–¡ Strange? Seventy of 164 Metro stations have closed business for the duration of the Games. It is nothing to do with Beijing, where it is business as usual. The shutdowns are in Shanghai, which will stage a big part of the Olympic football programme.

Additional contributions by Philip Barker

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