Recently in Olympics Category
News that Ministers were warned back in 2002 that the Olympics wouldn't raise huge sums of money for the nation reminded me of a slightly bad-tempered interview I conducted with the Culture Secretary earlier this year.
I asked Andy Burnham why the Government didn't come clean and admit that the financial benefits would go almost entirely to London, with regions such as the West Midlands fighting over any scraps left over.
It was a fairly blunt question and his reply was equally robust.
He told me: "The games have an incredible ability to lift people.
"Certainly, anybody under the age of 25 doesn't feel at all cynical about the Olympics coming to this country, and I think the older people need to remember that and not sour it with cynicism."
The cynical, old person he had in mind was clearly yours truly, but no complaints - he was giving as good as he got.
But no apologies, either. Apparently, the 250-page document, commissioned by the Government and presented to Tony Blair, concluded the Olympics would be a "national celebration", and not an economic opportunity.
It all started on 08/08/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (China local time) and for Michael Phelps it ended with 8 gold medals and 8 new records. It seems that 8 really IS the magic number!
Let's consider the evidence: In China, 8 is most definitely considered to be a lucky number. The Mandarin pronunciation ('bÃ?') sounds similar to the word for 'prosper' (which he did) and wealth ($1 million dollar Speedo bonus, anyone?). The symbol for the number 88 looks remarkably similar to the 'shuang xi' which is a popular design meaning 'Double Joy' (he broke 7 world records for speed, AND Mark Spitz's 7-medal Olympic record!) We're not the only ones who see the correlation either. A shrewd businessman once sold the telephone number 8888-8888 for $270,723 in Chengdu, China.
Oh, and that swimsuit Phelps was wearing was created by a brand involved in the sponsoring of 8 Olympic sports, by the way!
For years no one believed Mark Spitz's record would ever be broken. On Sunday, no one truly believed it would not. I think it's probably one of the greatest things that the world of sport has ever seen! It was hugely emotional to watch and I felt very privileged to be able to say I played some small part in the event that was Michael Phelps: Swimmer becoming Michael Phelps: Olympic Legend.
In a stadium packed with Chinese, Americans, Aussies and Europeans, it didn't matter who you were there to cheer on - the reality spread through the stands like wildfire. It felt like such a massive celebration of achievement and I could tell everyone in the stands knew that they just had witnessed history in the making. He's now the most decorated Olympian of all time. I find myself wondering if I - or indeed anyone - will ever witness a sporting achievement of this magnitude ever again. Incidentally, more people watched Michael go for gold than watched the last episode of Friends. That's a lot of memories.
We know there was so much more to Michael's big win at the Games than good fortune but let's face it, a little bit of luck never hurt anyone. Although I bet the airport's metal detector goes bananas when he leaves!
Paul Phedon works for Birmingham-based S&X Media and is representing Speedo at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The CCTV Building
Since the swimming started 6 days ago I've been heading to the National Aquatic Centre, aka the Water Cube, to go to work.
In the hustle and bustle of an Olympic working day in Beijing I try to afford myself a moment to take it all in.
But it's hard - I'm going to work in one of the most awe inspiring and innovative buildings in the world!
Its day 10 for S&X in Beijing and day 4 of the swimming! We're having a fantastic time but there just aren't enough hours in the day. We leave our apartments at 7am to get to the Water Cube in time for the warm-ups and don't get back 'til after the evening heats finish at 10 o clock at night!
As you'll know by now, Michael Phelps is well on his way to achieving 8 gold medals after having just taken his fifth in the 800 metre freestyle relay this morning. He actually won two medals in under an hour before it was time for elevenses. I think I was still on my second cup of coffee whilst he was winning his second gold medal!
Talking of medals, since we got here we have been fielding calls about how swimmers wearing the Speedo LZR Racer have broken 48 world records since its launch in February. I know it's a bit of a shameless plug but since the games started 4 days ago, that number has shot up to 62! Fourteen records in four days? That's good going!
We recently worked the Speedo 'Meet the Parents' event where we gave the media exclusive access to elite swimmers' families. Access Hollywood's Billy Bush, George Bush's cousin, came along, who I'd met previously at the USA swimmers' press conference - he almost sent me flying in the scrum to get to Michael! He absolutely loved meeting Debbie Phelps, Michael's mum because she's so friendly and chatty, she's a dream interviewee for the press because the pride she has for Michael and the enthusiasm she has for swimming as a sport is so obvious. The press scrum for her was almost as mad as the scrum for Michael.
American swimmer and US Playboy model Amanda Beard's parents put in an appearance and Natalie Coughlin, also American, had her parents come along as well. Australian Grant Hackett's parents are really nice too; they are all so enthusiastic about their children's achievements. They mostly watch the events from the Speedo Sports Club on the huge plasma screens so that they don't get hassled by the media but sometimes they come and sit with us in the Water Cube. We sat with Australian swimmer Bronte Barratt's parents the other day when she came fourth in the 200m freestyle semi-final and we really felt for them, but she still clocked a qualifying time for the final!
Despite the fact that everyone covering the Games has been here for a week at least, ourselves included, everyone is still a tad 'lost in translation' from time to time. I'm still at the point where I'm finding it fun and interesting although it's not much fun trying to translate your destination to a taxi driver when you've got a story to file!
It's been a real buzz to go to the Water Cube to work for the last 5 days. The foyer is seriously impressive with the bubbles that crown the building forming the windows. The poolside is really light and airy without a strip light in sight and a sea of bubbles adorns the ceiling. Though I have to admit, when US swimmer Ryan Lochte's in the pool I'm not exactly looking at the ceiling!
The swimming ends on Sunday and then we are managing a Meet the Coaches event and looking after media on the red carpet at the Athlete Wrap Party, so I'll be back to bring you the news from there as soon as I have it. Zai Jian for now!
China's embrace of the spin machine could be seen as further evidence that it has moved further into the 21st century.
Not only were some of the fireworks for the opening ceremony computer generated, but one of the child singers was actually miming - because the girl with the singing voice wasn't deemed pretty enough to appear on the world's television screens.
Sadly, we Brits are in no position to mock, following the revelations about fakery in various television programmes. The Chinese are just doing it on an even bigger scale.
But it reinforces the idea that we shouldn't try to compete with China when our own Olympics come around in 2012.
Let's not worry so much about the glitz and just do it in our traditional under-stated manner. It may not impress the world quite as much, but it's what we're good at.
The swimming finals began today and excitement in the Water Cube reached fever pitch with the 11,000 strong crowd cheering on our Speedo sponsored athletes!
A shot from the Beijing Opening Ceremony - (I wrote about it in our first post).
Jo Green and Paul Phedon from S&X Media in Beijing
"Ni hao Birmingham, Jo here!
Paul and I are in Beijing and the word of the day is HOT!! As in temperature AND the spectacle that was the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony. We have had a hectic few days here in China.