• BEIJING - The organizers of the Beijing Paralympics would set a good model for future hosts, the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said here on Wednesday.

    The Paralympics, the world's premier sporting event for elite disabled athletes, will open in Beijing on Saturday, nearly two weeks after the Chinese capital successfully hosting the Olympic Games.

    Philip Craven, who has been in Beijing over the past five weeks, said he was impressed by the preparation work done by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) when addressing a meeting of IPC executive board.

    "I would like to, on behalf of the whole Paralympic family, thank BOCOG and China for the incredible transition that have taken place here in Beijing and also in (co-host city) Qingdao," said the IPC chief.

    "No doubt, we have seen equal splendor here as you promised to us. We've seen it and we're feeling it," he added.

    In line with China's motto for the Paralympics, comparing it with the Olympics, - "Two Games with Equal Splendor", the Chinese government has endeavored to make Beijing and co-host cities of Qingdao and Hong Kong as accessible as possible for Pralympians and spectators as well, for example, setting up the country's first fleet of easy-access taxis and making tourist spots such as the Great Wall accessible to wheelchairs.

    Craven, who himself is wheelchair bound, said he was confident that the Beijing Paralympics would be a complete success and "highly copyable for the future".

    "We all expect that this games will open a new chapter in the history and progression of the Paralympic Movement," he said.

    More than 4,000 athletes from 148 countries and regions will compete in 20 sports at the Beijing Paralympics, which will run from September 6 to17.

     


  • A local girl holds up a sign board to cheer on torch bearers during the Beijing Paralympic torch relay in Changsha, Hunan Province, August 31, 2008.


    Dancers perform a sign language song "Love" at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic torch relay in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on August 31, 2008.


    Dancers stage a performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic torch relay in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on August 31, 2008.


    Liang Qiong, a worker in a publishing company, holds the torch during her leg of Paralympic torch relay in Changsha, Hunan province on August 31, 2008.


    Local dancers stage a performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic torch relay in Changsha, Hunan province on August 31, 2008.


    Cheng Run'er (Third R), the governor of Changsha presentes the Paralympic torch to Zhu Weimin(B), swimming gold medalist in 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. The Beijing Paralympic torch relay made its tour in Changsha, Hunan province on August 31,2008.


    Two torch bearers pass the Paralympic flame during its relay in Changsha, Hunan province on August 31,2008.
  • Last Sunday night at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, among all the celebrations, Yao Ming was seen hugging a female athlete.


    Yao Ming of China gives Basketball player Lauren Jackson of Australia a hug during the Closing Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the National Stadium.


    I blurted out: "China's online sleuths are going to flush out the identity of this woman, and she's going to create a big wave in China."

    A big-time blogger happened to be near me, and he posted my remarks in his blog. Now, we all know that woman was Lauren Jackson, an Australian basketball player who is currently with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA and the Australian National Team, The Opals.

    I don't know why I said what I said, but I guess I had a hunch about this kind of thing - the misinterpretation of cultural incidents. What appeared to be a token of friendliness between two acquaintances or friends has triggered a spate of tall tales.

    Soon after the embrace in the Bird's Nest, reports emerged claiming that Lauren Jackson, or LJ, is much more than a friend of Yao's. Obviously she initiated the hug, and Yao reciprocated with slight hesitation. From this, the legion of Chinese Sherlock Holmes have concluded that LJ used to have a fling with Yao, but Yao, faithful to his wife, Ye Li, turned her down.

    I don't know how much truth there is in that. But it doesn't seem to be corroborated by the people involved. That, however, doesn't prevent the hug from being the runaway fun story from an otherwise predictable sporting event.

    If you don't believe what I've said, here's the final proof - a rewritten lyric set to the tune of the Beijing Olympics theme song:

    Yao Ming: (helplessly) Me and Li / Heart to heart / Have got marriage license / Stop dreaming / Don't carry on / For I'll be faithful. / Go away, Lauren / Let go of my hand / You and me / Are impossible / Go find someone else.

    LJ: (joyfully) Yao near me / And hugged me / Won't part with me. / Winds may blow / Blow them apart / And he'll hug me alone. / Come on, Big Yao / Give me your hand.

    Chorus: Yao near me / And hugged me / Dazed over me / You love me / And hugged me / Now in dream of me.


    An audio version is floating in cyberspace, with uncanny mimicry of the original singers Liu Huan and Sarah Brightman.


    Basketball player Lauren Jackson of Australia talks with Yao Ming of China during the Closing Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the National Stadium.

    You may laugh at such a childish act of mischievousness. But actually it's not that simple. Chinese etiquette does not include hugging in public, and even though we've seen it countless times in movies most of us do not know when it is appropriate to hug, especially a non-family member of the opposite sex.

    Two decades ago, I was seeing off a group of visitors at the airport after escorting them for weeks on a tour across China. The women hugged me one by one, or rather, the first woman hugged me, and then I started hugging the others. It happened that the last person in the group was an old gentleman. As soon as I opened my arms, one of the women hinted that I stop. I instantly realized what she meant, but I did not understand. I've seen movies from Eastern Europe in which adult men hugged each other. The nuances were just too complicated for a kid fresh out of college.

    Today, hugging is quite common in China, especially among the young, but old mindsets die hard. Even if you conduct yourself properly, as Yao Ming and LJ did, people will misunderstand you, deliberately or not, because the same act has different connotations in different cultures.

    Wait for a Yao-Ye-LJ melodrama like a soap opera fit for primetime. What netizens can cook up will be infinitely more colorful than anything on TV.


    Yao Ming of China gives Basketball player Lauren Jackson of Australia a hug in the Beijing National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


    Basketball players Lauren Jackson of Australia and Yao Ming of China speak in the Beijing National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics


    Basketball player Lauren Jackson of Australia is pictured during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. 


  • Gold medalist divers Guo Jingjing (2nd L), Wu Minxia (2nd R) and Qin Kai co-sing a song with Hong Kong pop singer Joey Yung in Hong Kong on August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.


    Olympic gymnastic champions Yang Yilin(L) performs on the balance beam with her teammate Cheng Fei in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city


    Olympic table tennis gold winner Zhang Yining shakes hands with a local child on Saturday. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.


    Chinese Olympic championship gymnasts Xiao Qin(L) and Yang Wei perform on the pommel horse in a gym of Hong Kong Saturday during their three-day visit to the city.


    Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan shows his skill during an exhibition match in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.


    Olympic fencing champion Zhong Man gives instructions to a local resident in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.


    Olympic badminton champion Zhang Ning acknowledges the local spectators in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.


    Olympic table tennis gold medallist Ma Lin gives instructions to a local child in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. China's Olympic gold medallists arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, kicking off their three-day visit to the city.

  • China's gold medal-winning divers (L-R) Huo Liang, Wang Xin, and Chen Ruolin perform during a demonstration in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. Chinese gold medallists are visiting Hong Kong for three days to take part in exhibition matches, meet local people and visit Disneyland.


    China's gold medal-winning divers divers Lin Yue (R) and Huo Liang practise a demonstration in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. Chinese gold medallists are visiting Hong Kong for three days to take part in exhibition matches, meet local people and visit Disneyland.


    China's gold medal-winning diver Guo Jingjing reacts during a demonstration in Hong Kong August 30, 2008. Chinese gold medallists are visiting Hong Kong for three days to take part in exhibition matches, meet local people and visit Disneyland.


    China's gold medal-winning diver Guo Jingjing smiles during a demonstration in Hong Kong, August 30, 2008. Chinese gold medallists are visiting Hong Kong for three days to take part in exhibition matches, meet local people and visit Disneyland.
  • ZURICH - Triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt confirmed his domination of the sprints on Friday with a comfortable 100 meters victory at the Weltklasse Golden League meeting.

     
    Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after winning the men's 100m race during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich August 29, 2008.

    The 22-year-old Jamaican, who set world records in winning the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 meters relay in Beijing, finished Friday's race in 9.83 seconds, 0.16 seconds clear of America's double Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix.

    After taking silver behind Bolt at the Olympics, Trinidad & Tobago's Richard Thompson had to settle for third place in Zurich, a further 10th of a second behind Dix.

    "It was good, but my start was not too good," said Bolt. "I concentrated on winning and as I'm starting to get a cold I was not able to think about any faster time."

    Fellow Olympic champion and world record holder Dayron Robles was also able to back up his stunning 110 meters hurdles performance in Beijing.

    The 21-year-old Cuban ran neck and neck with Olympic bronze medal winner David Oliver before ducking his head at the line to finish in 12.97 seconds, 0.01 seconds ahead of the American.

    JACKPOT CONTENDERS

    Kenyan teenager Pamela Jelimo continued her fantastic season, following up her Olympic gold medal in the 800 meters by setting the year's best time of one minute 54.01 seconds.

    Jelimo, 18, kept well on track for a share of the Golden League's $1 million jackpot awarded to athletes who win their event at all six of the season's meetings.

    "There's still one race to go for the jackpot and the world record is closer now, too, though I'm not sure I can do it this year," she said.

    With only next Friday's Golden League meeting in Brussels remaining, Jelimo faces competition for the main prize only from Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic.

    After being denied the gold medal in Beijing by surprise Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium, Vlasic struck back impressively in Zurich.

    Overcoming some nervy moments to clear 1.98 meters at her third attempt, the world champion then kept her jackpot hopes alive with the only successful clearance at 2.01.

    WARINER WIN

    America's Jeremy Wariner and LoLo Jones were among the other athletes fighting back from Olympic disappointment on Friday.

    Wariner set his best time of the year to win the 400 meters in 43.82 seconds, 0.61 seconds ahead of compatriot and Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt.

    Jones, seventh in the Beijing 100 hurdles after hitting the ninth hurdle while leading, cruised to victory in 12.56 seconds.

    Olympic javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen further enhanced his reputation with a throw of 90.28 meters - only the second throw past 90 meters this year following the Norwegian's own 90.57 in Beijing.

    Ethiopia's double Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele rounded the meeting off by improving on his gold medal performance in the 5,000 meters - setting a year's best time of 12:50.18.


    Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after winning the men's 100m race during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, August 29, 2008.


    Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts after winning the men's 100m race during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich August 29, 2008.


    Usain Bolt (C) of Jamaica sprints to the finish line winning the men's 100m race ahead of second placed Walter Dix (L) of the U.S. and Richard Thompson (R) of Trinidad and Tobago during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich August 29, 2008.


    Usain Bolt of Jamaica throws his flowers into the crowd after winning the men's 100m race during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich August 29, 2008.


    Usain Bolt of Jamaica signs autographs after winning in the men's 100m race during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, August 29, 2008

  • BEIJING -- China Central Television (CCTV) plans to broadcast live at least three events a day during the Paralympics, which runs from September 6-17, local media reported on Saturday.

    Other matches would appear in highlights programs due to limited broadcasting rights, Jiang Heping, CCTV's sports channel director, told the Beijing Morning Post.

    The coverage would be unprecedented, Jiang said. The only event broadcast live from the 2004 Athens Paralympics was the final of wheelchair basketball, and overall broadcast time added up to just 15 hours.

    Sign-language interpretation would be run simultaneously with every event for hearing-impaired people, Jiang said. About 20 million Chinese have hearing problems.

    Such services were already available in some programs, he added.

    Jiang said the Paralympics commentary team would be the same as that of the Olympics, except for one person, and commentators would offer more background information to familiarize audiences with the events.

    Twenty events, including track and field, wheelchair basketball and 5 or 7-a-side football, will be staged during the Games, with about 4,000 disabled athletes from around the world competing.

    "We aim to present the fighting spirit of all the Paralympians, and we are not going to focus on who gets the gold medal," Jiang said.

  • ZURICH, Switzerland — Jeremy Wariner put the disappointment of the Olympics defeat behind him to beat his gold medal rival LaShawn Merritt in the 400 meters Friday night in the Weltklasse meet.


    Blanka Vlasic (L-R) of Croatia, Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Jeremy Wariner of the US talk with other winners during the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, August 29, 2008.

    Wariner, a former Arlington Lamar and Baylor standout, ran a strong bend to hold at bay Merritt, running lane three inside him, and kicked clear in the final straight to win in 43.82, his fastest time of the season.

    "I had Merritt behind me to push me on," Wariner said. "I ran a season best and I plan to improve on that in Brussels and Stuttgart. I want to end up as world number one at the end of the year."

    Jeremy Wariner of the US pours water over his head after winning the men's 400m event at the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, August 29, 2008.


    Jeremy Wariner of the US pours water over his head after winning the men's 400m event at the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, August 29, 2008.


  • Beijing Olympic medalists wave their hands at Hong Kong airport August 29, 2008. Gold medallists of the Chinese team visited the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Friday for a three-day tour. [Agencies]


    Beijing Olympic gold medalists diver Guo Jingjing (L) and table tennis player Zhang Yining (C) from Chinese mainland and Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang wave to journalists at Hong Kong airport August 29, 2008. Gold medallists of the Chinese team visited the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Friday for a three-day tour. [Agencies]


    Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (C) greets a delegation of Chinese mainland athletes who have won gold medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as they arrive in Hong Kong on August 29, 2008. The athletes are in Hong Kong for a three-day visit. [Agencies]

  • Jiang Xintian, who lit the Paralympic flame on Thursday, in this 2003 file photo. Jiang won the Media Focus prize in the Miss China Universe pageant in 2003 in Ji'nan, Shandong Province. [Xinhua]


    Jiang Xintian, who lit the Paralympic flame on Thursday, in this 2003 file photo. Jiang won the Media Focus prize in the Miss China Universe pageant in 2003 in Ji'nan, Shandong Province. [Xinhua]


    Hearing-and speech-impaired stage presenter Jiang Xintian(R) hands over the Paralympic torch to former Paralympian Jin Jing (C) during the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games flame lighting and torch relay launching ceremony at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing August 28, 2008. [Agencies]


    Jiang Xintian, who lit the Paralympic flame on Thursday, in this 2003 file photo. Jiang won the Media Focus prize in the Miss China Universe pageant in 2003 in Ji'nan, Shandong Province. [Xinhua]