Posted: Wednesday August 6, 2008 1:03PM; Updated: Sunday August 24, 2008 10:26AM

Scenes from Beijing (cont.)

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American-born Becky Hammon has dual citizenship with Russia and plays pro ball for the Moscow-based CSKA team.
American-born Becky Hammon has dual citizenship with Russia and plays pro ball for the Moscow-based CSKA team.

By the numbers

BEIJING -- China Daily, which covers these Games through a delicious rose-colored lens, reported today that cooler weather and showers are expected in the capital over the next few days. Great news for the competitors. Life-saving news for the 23,503 accredited media who have descended upon Beijing.

"I think the blue skies will come, especially after today's rain. I've got my fingers crossed," said Wang Wei, secretary-general of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Fingers crossed, indeed. Umbrellas were in great demand this afternoon as rain danced across the city. SI.com's Tim Layden, who is covering road cycling, reports that the weather at the Juyongguan Pass, the famed pass of the Great Wall of China located 37 miles north of Beijing, is windy, pouring rain and bordering on cold. Below, we offer some numbers to warm up our colleague.

842 million people in China watching the Opening Ceremonies on CCTV-1, CCTV-2, CCTV-5, CCTV-7, CCTV News, CCTV-HD channels and 30 national regional channels, according to the IOC.

100,000 ($150,000) Euros offered by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to any Russian athlete who wins a gold medal in Beijing.

11,194 Athletes competing at the Beijing Games.

570 Spectators and performers who got sick during the Opening Ceremonies.

83.6 Percent of the people watching television in China on Friday who were watching the Opening Ceremonies.

41 Age of Canada pitcher Rheal Cormier, the oldest baseball player at the Games. Cormier was 71-64 with a 4.03 ERA over 16 MLB seasons.

36 Combined points scored by Germany's Chris Kaman (24) and Russia's Becky Hammon (11), both were born in the U.S., in opening-round wins in basketball. The pair was a combined 14 of 20 from the field.

20 U.S. Olympians who are mothers.

19 inches of water in the mixed zone (the designated area where journalists speak with athletes after an event) upon the conclusion of the women's road cycling race in Juyongguan.

16 Gold medals awarded to China in table tennis since the sport was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1988. Only four other countries have won gold.

13, Age of Seychelles swimmer Dwayne Benjamin Didon, the youngest male athlete at the Olympics.

10 songs sung by actor-turned-singer Jackie Chan on his "Official Album for the Beijing Olympic Games."

8 Pandas that have been designated by the Beijing Zoo as "Olympic Pandas," according to China Daily. The pandas live in a "specifically built home, which is equipped with air-conditioning, rock sculptures, a pond, wooden climbing structures and plenty of bamboo to munch on."
-- Richard Deitsch

Saturday, Aug. 9

We'll have pun, pun, pun

BEIJING -- I overheard someone saying that Friday night's Opening Ceremonies cost $350 million. Impossible, I thought -- until I watched them unspool, and began gradually to realize how very possible that might be.

Guess they didn't need Steven Spielberg. The goose-stepping soldiers and sudden mob barking I could have done without, but otherwise it was a remarkable spectacle. The artwork-in-progress trope worked very well. The little earthquake survivor walking with Yao Ming could win an archery gold for its unerring aim at the heart. And that I spent so much time trying to figure out how they pulled stuff off is testament to how visually engrossing everything was.

Got a good sense for what stories get play in the state-run Chinese media, too: There were supportive cheers for the Iraqi delegation, and ho-hum silence when Sudan marched in.

Not sure why so many heads of state like to deploy that thumbs-up, Sammy Davis Jr. gesture.

And what's up with Sarko going solo, sans Carla? Maybe she was showing the solidarity with the Dalai Lama that her husband couldn't muster.

Cheerleading with North Philadelphia characteristics: Those cheerleaders girdling the infield during the parade of athletes clapped and swayed for more than 2½ hours on an insanely hot and humid night. Had me thinking of the Hawk, the mascot at St. Joseph's, which flaps throughout every basketball game. But even a sold-out Palestra doesn't get as hot as this.

A columnist in a local English-language magazine, The Beijinger, has written a stern admonition to visiting reporters to refrain from using the host culture as a wellspring for clichés and indiscriminate wordplay, lest he and his fellow expats go through episodes of "groaning, tearing out of hair and unpleasant vomiting."

As opposed to pleasant vomiting, apparently. But I digress: The columnist has no patience for English puns on Chinese, especially "on the interrogatives 'who' or 'when' and the family names of the Chinese president and premier, respectively. I know you're thinking, 'Hu knows Wen I'll get another chance like this?' and I feel for you, but just resist it, O.K.?"

But I couldn't. A four-hour Ceremony is an invitation to bilingual mischief. The first bit occurred during the "Starlight" portion of the evening, when a few of the twinkle lights on the performers' green jump suits suffered wardrobe malfunctions, and the phrase "Hu's Crying Now" flashed across the brain.

Later in the Games, as Liu Xiang leaves his mark in the hurdles, there'll surely be "Liu's Flying Now."

And after Xu Hai Yan advances in the Greco-Roman draw, "Xu In."

Counterbalanced of course by volleyballer Wei Qiuyue's succumbing to injury, "Wei Out."

So, with a tip of the hat to sometime SI contributor Charlie Pierce -- filing to the Boston Herald years ago after China's Hu Na was eliminated from the U.S. Open, he led with "Hu Na na na, sha na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye," and it actually made the paper -- I found myself writing headlines in search of news.

If any of these stories develop over the next 17 days, I invite the English-language press, The Beijinger included, to use them:

Win, Place and Zhou

Catching some filamentous algae off the coast of Qingdao, windsurfer can do no better than bronze

Yang and the Restless

Promising young judokas await retirement of Chinese women's champion so they might move up in team pecking order

Yuan To Know a Secret

Chinese security agents use bribes to infiltrate East Turkmen terror cell

Du, Yu, Wanna Dance

After bagging a doubles medal in women's badminton, Chinese pair head to Houhai District to celebrate

Nihao Know-How for Knee-Highs

Beijing International School redoubles efforts to teach Chinese to expat kids

Ask and Yi Shall Find

New Jersey Net agrees with coach's plea that he concentrate more on passing

Guo Fourth and Multiplies

After missing out on a medal, champion quits diving and sets sights on Math Olympiad

Dong Dong Doodle All Night Long

After bagging a medal in the men's trampoline, gymnast stays up to meet deadline to enter etchings in Cultural Olympiad

As I said, it was a long four hours.
-- Alexander Wolff


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