Say what you want about the Chinese government, and lots of people do, but the people are as friendly as you can imagine at the Olympic centres. A straggling reporter arrived late at the media village the other night to find the shop that sells Tsing Tao beers for $1.50 Cdn was closed. He was visibly shaken by the experience. But no problem. A key was produced, a cash register powered up and a smiling worker was happy to help. Great folks. Later, that same reporter (okay, guilty as charged) misplaced his Chinese address book on a media bus. An eager volunteer called the phone number on the business card inside and brought it back to the Main Press Centre a couple hours later.
HEY SAILOR: The people in the tourist business also are super-friendly in these parts. One woman spotted a Canadian with his knapsack and Olympic accreditation and stopped him on the street near Tiananmen Square. “You a visitor?” she asked in halting English. “Yes,” came the reply. “Here, you call,” she said. The card she handed the reporter showed her company as the China International Travel Service Head Office and Beijing Air Service Company. “You call,” she said. “Full body massage. You call.”
WHEELS UP: China has increasingly become a city of cars. But a trip downtown the other day revealed plenty of people still out on bikes. Oddly enough, a lot of the bikes parked on the sidewalk aren’t even locked. Of course, nobody wears a helmet. And most of the bikes are pretty old and rickety. But it’s fun to see women in slinky dresses riding their bikes alongside grungy looking older men. And there’s a wide variety of styles, including some with small motors or second seats for passengers. One guy yesterday was towing a small cart with two buddies lying down (pictured), both of them shielding their eyes and faces from the searing afternoon sun.
TOILETGATE: Goofy as it may be, it’s common for journalists at the Olympics to be told to tape over the logos on their computers if they’re not made by the company that happens to be the official laptop supplier of the Olympic Games. But someone at the Main Press Centre has taken it to another level by placing small strips of grey duct tape over the logo of the urinals in the men’s washrooms. We kid you not. American Standard apparently isn’t the official toilet of the Olympics. Or maybe somebody doesn’t like Americans, which is kinda hard to believe in China. Isn’t it?
HEADING OUT? International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper, who’s been head of the IOC’s press commission for a couple of decades, is said to be on his way out the door. Gosper raised eyebrows this week when he told reporters he was sure his boss, president Jacques Rogge, knew that Internet sites in China had been blocked from journalists’ view by the Chinese government. You don’t hang your boss out to dry like that in any world, let alone the cutthroat world of the IOC.
WEB TROUBLE: There’s been tons written on the issue of Internet access. You can blame the Chinese for blocking journalists’ access to websites they don’t like, but this comes as a surprise? And the IOC didn’t know about this? What a load. Olympic voters knew what precisely what type of bed they were climbing into when they checked their ballots next to “Beijing” back in 2001, bypassing Paris, Toronto and other cities. Many IOC types come from countries that are just as undemocratic as China, and they don’t really care who they give the Games to as long as the buses run on time (buses for journalists, that is; they all take private limos in specially designated Olympic lanes) and provided there are plenty of nice, five-star restaurants. For the IOC to say all they can do is encourage the Chinese to provide full Internet access is a complete load. They could’ve written a demand for full access into the contract when they gave China the Games. They didn’t do it.
MIA: By the way, whatever happened to the torch relay?
HONEST MAN: Give Turkish sailor Ates Cinar full marks for honesty. Apparently his coach had a dream that Cinar would win a medal. Asked about the coach, Cinar replied, “I’ll give this dream a one per cent chance.”
SPEED KILLS: Australian swimmer Markus Rogan was asked abut the new Speedo LZR suits that have helped his fellow swimmers set new records almost daily. "I tested it," Rogan said. "I threw it in the pool and it didn't move at all. So I'll still have to swim."