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Vienna | 13.8.2008 | 13:12 
Letters from a shrinking globe: around the day in 80 worlds

Zita, Rotifer, Steve

An Ode to Crooked Teeth
  "Father heard the children scream,
So he threw them in the stream,
Saying, as he drowned the third,
Children should be SEEN, not HEARD.

My therapist is still talking to me about the little nursery rhyme that Papa Dear used to whisper into my tiny ear as I snuggled down to sleep, but it seems that the Chinese Olympic organisers have a more sophisticated and complicated world view than my Dad.

Apparently, in China some children are to be seen and some are to be heard. At the opening ceremony we heard 7-year old Yang Peiyi singing a squeakily-cute "Ode to the Motherland", but we saw, in a red dress and pigtails, beautiful little 9 year-old Lin Miaoke.
Not "Flawless"
  Why? Because although little Miss Yang has a golden voice, her teeth are slightly crooked (strange that for a 7-year old!) and therefore her appearance was apparently deemed by the Politburo to be no good for China's image abroad. Musical director Chen Qigang told Beijing Radio that the organisers needed a girl with both a good image and a good voice.

Good image? Well this is simply outrageous isn't it!

If you are a small child with crooked teeth (and, I suppose, the exceptional language skills necessary to read these twitterings), or, as is more likely, the big sister, brother, parent, grandparent of such a child, take this from me: there is nothing more cool or beautiful on this planet than a child with gappy teeth. Basta!

Personally, I don't think children of seven, or nine for that matter, should be promoting any country's image abroad anyway. They should be withdrawn from publicity and left alone to draw cute but crap pictures of ponies with colour crayons, swap sweeties and pass rude notes around about the teacher (although in England they are probably throwing stones at passing policemen at that age, I'm afraid.)
Bild: EPA
  That's why I can't share the enthusiasm of my favourite work colleague for women's gymnastics. There seem to be very few 'women' competing, just a lot of little girls with huge pressure on their frail shoulders.

I saw pictures on CNN of the Chinese gymnasts being 'trained'. Some huge mama was bending their little backs backwards until it looked like they were about to snap. Apparently it is good for their flexibility, but it didn't look much fun to me.

But, on the other hand, this form of gymnastics looks terribly good fun!
A Silly Spat
  The Australians and the British Olympic officials (the old grey men who don't do any sport themselves anymore) are having a spat about who is going to win the most medals. Britain started it, I believe, but the Aussies have certainly finished it with this verbal slap from John Coates, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, after Lancashire's Rebecca Adlington won a gold medal in the 400m freestyle swimming event: "It's not bad for a country that has no swimming pools and very little soap." Ouch!

It's pretty childish, isn't it? But it is rather fun. Start up a rivalry with Switzerland: it was far too chummy at the Euros. Their cyclist Fabian Cancellara, apparently nicknamed "Spartacus", has just won a gold in the individual time-trial.

It's because the Swiss are too simple to drive cars. There: I've started you off with a mindless, factually-flawed insult - just to keep the spirit of these Games alive.
Bild: EPA
A Silly Sport
  A rather more serious spat was underway in the beach volleyball where Georgia beat Russia in the women's event. "They are not even Georgians," said losing Russia's Alexandra Shiryaeva after she and her partner were defeated by two sets to one. "They're Brazilians." Boo! Next they'll be questioning the nationality of the Tyrolean triathlete Kate Allen. Where will it all end?

Both teams, by the way, adhered to the strict rules about maximum bikini size. I know Austrians are fond of this game, but I can't help finding it mildly ludicrous. The great thing about volleyball is the complicated teamwork and the long rallies. With just two on each side the beach version is just a lot of silly music, annoying cheerleaders and sandy bottoms. But the Kurier clearly loves it.
In the Pool
  Michael Phelps continues to be the man of the Games, winning his fourth and fifth gold medals of these Olympics, a feat that has made him the most decorated individual athlete in the history of the modern Games with 11th Olympic golds overall. He is 23 years old. And he celebrates like Tarzan.

The 'female Phelps' Katie Hoff, not to be confused with The Hoff, of course, continues to disappoint. She was 4th in the 200m individual medley final and is still without a gold medal in Beijing.
Bild: EPA
Land und Leut'
  What else? The Chinese officials continued their hearts and minds campaign by arresting and roughing up the British journalist John Ray from ITN, who was filming a protest by Free Tibet campaigners near the Bird's Nest.

And the Beijing population continued to remind us to distinguish them from the beaurocrats that rule over them by being by all accounts among the most charming hosts of recent memory.

And North Korea have won their first gold medal at these games. Pak Hyon Suk won the women's 63-kilogram weightlifting division "I am overjoyed by the fact that I have brought joy to our dear general," said Pak. No comment.

And I heard one more thing that tickled me.

There is a huge rivalry between China and the USA to finish top of the medal table. China is running away with it on the official IOC medal table, which places the greatest emphasis on the number of gold medals earned. But the US media outlets are nothing if not ingenious. They are determining standings based on TOTAL medals won, so a bronze is worth the same as a gold.

And waddyaknow, bro: Uncle Sam is on top when you count it that way!
fm4 links
  Chris Cummins on Beijing 2008:

Forgotten Guilt, Beautiful Innocence
[Aug. 8] The most politicised Games in recent history are underway

Violence and Reconciliation
[Aug. 10] A vicious murder and a gesture of peace

Wind, Jodhpurs and the Laws of Physics
[Aug. 11] A television festival for insomniacs

Dancing Bee-keepers and Tugged Speedos
[Aug. 12] What's the best event to watch on the goggle-box?

An Ode to Crooked Teeth
[Aug. 13] And a war of words on the beach.

"Just Don't Be Journalists!"
[Aug. 14] A very bizarre press conference in Beijing.

Are Medal Tables Rubbish?
[Aug. 18] Journalists and politicians slaver of them, but the Olympic charter says they don't matter. Do they?
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