Woke up to … wait for it … clear skies. The mountains outside of Beijing were clearly visible, and it looked like the sky had been clean-scrubbed by Thursday night’s rain. It was quite a difference from Thursday’s dreary weather, and it made the Birds Nest stadium look positively shimmery.
After a big fuss about Internet access, the Chinese appear to have lifted some restrictions. The Star was able to go onto Amnesty International’s web site on Friday, which wasn’t the case the day before.
China Daily, the official English language paper in these parts, runs something called China Scene. Five Ring Circus will attempt to pass along some of the more interesting, intellectual items as time permits. For example, the Aug. 1 edition talks about a chap from Beijing who proposed to his girlfriend while wearing a giant Garfield the Cat costume and holding a dozen red roses. Another item talked about how there’s a dog in Guangzhou who’s quite an expert skateboarder, which sounds like an item out of an old Monty Python episode “And now, a man with three buttocks.”
The July 31 edition discussed how a woman in Kunming was bitten on the hand while riding a bus. It seems a young man offered her a seat on the bus and was offended when she demurred, so he grabbed her and took out his revenge on her hand. Finally, it seems an 87-year-old woman from Henan province walked 100 kilometers the other day to visit her son in prison. The 65-year-old son, who’s in jail for theft, is said to have broken down in tears and promised Mom to clean up his life. Jail officials were so moved by the woman’s tale – she didn’t tell anyone where she was going – that they altered the rules and allowed she and her son to meet face-to-face in a private room.
The sports are still a few days away, but there already is plenty of training going on. Reviews have been outstanding for the Olympic swimming pool, which is a nice place to keep cool in the heat of a Beijing summer. Turns out there’s a way for horses, who will compete down in steamy Hong Kong, to cool off as well. For the first time at the Olympics, there will be a 400-litre tank of water and ice with a spraying device attached on a vehicle about the size of a golf cart. Five vehicles will provide a light dousing to any overheated horse that might need a quick cool-down. The device has been given the nickname “Thunderbird.” There have been cooling tents in the past, but the advantage of Thunderbird is that it’s mobile and can get to where the horses are.
Another new feature at the Beijing Games will be video refereeing at the fencing competition. The changes come after a Hungarian fencing referee was expelled from the Athens Games in 2004 following mistakes during a gold medal match. The IOC’s official news web site explained that the referee made six scoring decisions in the men’s team foil final between Italy and China and that all the errors were in favour of the Italian team, which beat the Chinese 45-42 to take the gold. The referee was expelled by the fencing organization and suspended for two years. But there was no mechanism at the time for filing a complaint and the results were allowed to stand. Athletes will now be able to use video to appeal a referee’s decision during a bout.
Your mother always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some of us take that to an extreme and pack Tim Hortons coffee and raisin bran to be sure we have something familiar to start the day. that's especially important if you were at a media village in Turin, where breakfast was the same every day for three weeks; decent breads and cheese but uncooked bacon and two choices of cereal; cocoa puffs and corn flakes. There was a toaster that took five minutes to make one piece, and I swear there were fights between Germans and Canadians (unnamed, of course) over whose slice of Wonder Bread was whose. If someone grabbed yours, you had to wait another five minutes for this circular contraption to warm your bread. And this in a country that invented the Ferrari.
It's much better here; good scrambled eggs and sausage, noodles for those so inclined, a decent selection of fruit and a whopping four kinds of cereal, including granola and ... cocoa puffs. Even Raisin Bran, God love them. And a 30-second toaster! No excuses for missing deadlines now.
The coffee, not surprisingly, is not up to Turin standards by a long shot but that's to be expected. The cappucino at McDonald's actually is pretty good. Not quite Balzac's at the Distillery District quality, but pretty decent.