Let The Games Begin

Beijing, Friday: So to the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the long-awaited Opening Ceremony, along with George W Bush and about 80 heads of state, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and various other champions of industry (most of whom have some commercial interest in China), as well as some of the BOA media team.

But as all our more experienced colleagues at the MPC know all too well, it will be from tomorrow, when the sports events get underway in earnest, that the vast enterprise will really be put to the test.

â–¡ Read Kevin Mitchell’s live blog on the Opening Ceremony by clicking here.

â–¡ Those SJA members who met him at the recent pre-Olympic lunch in Fleet Street will know what a sporting sort of chap Lord Moynihan, the BOA chairman, can be. So they will not be surprised to hear that he and Australian IOC member John Coates have struck a champagne bet. There’s a bottle of champers at stake for every medal by which Britain beats Australia. Or the other way round…

â–¡ Our thanks to Charlie Sale for pointing this one out: Chinese suspicion of their Olympic visitors can be gauged from a notice at the swimming pool in one of the better media hotels. It reads: “No frolicking, no urinating, no defecating.”

â–¡ Smog Blog (after six days in Beijing): Blue skies 1, Smog 5.

â–¡ And Doug Gillon, here at his 10th Olympics, is turning out a daily blog which is well worth a look. He observes that Yao Ming, China’s NBA superstar, aka “the Great Tall of China”, and who carries the flag tonight in the Olympic opening ceremony, represents quite how sport as a business is taking a hand in modern China.

“Twenty years ago,” Doug writes, “China was not even charged for NBA broadcast rights. Now more than 450 million Chinese watch the sport, and it is estimated that some 300 million play it.

“Hong Kong millionaire entrepreneur Li Ka-Shing and the Disney Corporation this year paid $253 million for an 11 per cent share of NBA China, whose association chief, Li Yuanwei says: ‘It’s more than a game. People have talked endlessly about how different Chinese and American athletes are. Sure, we have different systems: NBA stars make lots of money, while Chinese players don’t. They drive luxury cars while our players ride the team bus.’

“Well the 7ft 6in Yao is on $13 million this year with the Houston Rockets, and has earned $44 million since he was first pick on the draft in 2002.”

â–¡ As if underlining Gillon’s notes, a survey in a local Beijing magazine puts Yao at the top of a list of China’s five biggest celebrities, of which three are sportsmen, two of whom are basketball players: Yao; 110 metres hurdles defending Olympic champion Liu Xiang; film director Zhang Yimou; Jet Li; and the second basketball star, Yi Jianlian.

â–¡ According to a similar survey conducted by a gay publication in Britain, the Olympian most gay men would want to sleep with is double decathlon champion Daley Thompson. Time to ditch the 1970s ‘tache, eh, Daley?

Some may regard it as some sort of payback for Thompson, who at the medal ceremony in Los Angeles in 1984 to receive the second of his gold medals, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: “Is the world’s second-best athlete gay?”, in an attempt to “out” one leading American athlete.

â–¡ And staying with this theme for a little longer, this was spotted on Popbitch: The American Family Association is a pressure group which polices the entertainment industry about anything they think disses “traditional family values”. One of its bugbears is the appropriation of the word “gay” by gays. So the AFA website has a policy of always replacing the word “gay” with homosexual.

Recently the AFA website had a piece about the Olympics, more specifically Tyson Gay, the 100 metres world champion. Its auto-correct function got to work:

“Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has… “It means a lot to me,” the 25-year-old Homosexual said. “I’m glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me.”

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