CHINA – THE NEW EMERGING SPORTING SUPERPOWER

Well, the rain l was praying for certainly came down on Sunday night in a big way. I had not seen such a torrential downpour of rain for some time. Alas it has still not cleared the sky of the haze l saw as soon as I got off the plane at Beijing International airport, though it has made the place much cooler, which is of some relief to both athletes competing and spectators moving between the various venues. As a result many of Beijing’s iconic new buildings like the Bird Nest and the Cube, are set in a backdrop of grey skies and not brilliant sunlight which does not make the most of their eyecatching features. You can see that for yourself in the photo above of the Birds Nest where its greys almost merge with the skyline.

On the sporting front, the clear battle for top of the medals table is between the USA and China. The first major battle on that front came in the basketball on Sunday night. While the Chinese started well with their top star Yao Ming in fine form, the USA, with their president in attendance, clearly showed their superiority in the game they invented by winning at the end by 101 – 70.

China’s sporting success really began the day before when Chen Xiexia won the women’s 48 kg weightlifting gold, and it will undoubtedly be the first of many, many gold medals for them. The home crowds have been hugely supportive of their athletes and if anything the problem will be dealing with such high expectations all the time, which was the fate of some of their shooters on Saturday. That said and done, its clear to many that China will emerge as a sporting superpower at this Olympics and will in all probability be topping the medals table.

So in future we can look forward to the Chinese getting fed on a diet of sporting success at the Olympics and they will be the one of the countries to watch in London 2012.

In the meantime, it was a pleasure to be at the pool to see British success when Becky Adlington won her gold medal in 400m freestyle. This is clearly a boost to the team as all of team GB’s swimmers has got through to the finals and semis. Becky becomes our first gold medalist women swimming success for 48 years. All this in a session where the USA won the mens 100 X 4 relay by the closest of margins, quite literally just a finger tip from the French. Let the sporting dramas continue!

Finally surprisingly much of Beijing has the feel of other East Asian cities like Seoul and Singapore as much of the new infrastructure in the city appears not to be more then a decade old. Sure, it has plenty of history with the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and its hutongs, but huge investment has given it roads and subways much like it’s neighbours and the atmosphere is similarly relaxed – the only difference is the language spoken.