journalism, personal, videos

China beat: Handball, war, sanitation, etc.

In covering Iceland’s handball team today, I got this quote:

What we thought before this game is just to do what our forefathers did. They at most endured, like, two or three days at home in peace, and then they had to destroy something. They had to go and fight war somewhere. They went with their boats and stuff like that, and we were just on our boats, destroying something. That’s how we went to the game, just to enjoy those 60 minutes like our (unintelligible) in life. That’s what you do. That’s what you live for.

I didn’t use it because I had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe Monty Python’s Njorl’s Saga sketch?

Someone else suggested Bjork’s Earth Intruders video:

No, that didn’t help. And the goalkeeper isn’t a Bjork fan, anyway.

BBC readers are obsessed with the way the U.S. media order their medals table, insisting countries should be listed according to gold medals rather than totals.

Naturally, the assumption is not that this is simply a discrepancy in long-standing conventions, such as the differences between “cookie” and “biscuit” or the American stubbornness in resisting the metric system. The assumption is that we all used to list the medals sorted by golds, then changed when China surged to a commanding lead in that category.

Imagine my shock when someone dug up the USA TODAY medal count from Athens, from the stat feed whose specs I helped write, and we had it listed by gold medals. My guess is that we once gave readers the chance to sort it as they saw fit, and that functionality disappeared over one of the multitude of server migrations over the years.

Whatever the explanation, I’m sure it has no chance of being accepted by the folks who were hyping the 200 meters as a showdown between Usain Bolt and Christian Malcolm.

I love the BBC, but anyone from the UK who thinks Americans are the most provincial jerks in the world should take a look at the Beeb’s Olympics coverage. Yikes.

I also love Olympic News Service, which sends hordes of fresh-faced young folks to the venues to collect “flash quotes” from athletes.

You’re generally not going to get controversial material from these quotes, though. They have notepads and not tape recorders, and a 21-year-old generally isn’t going to trust his or her scribbled notes if anyone questions the quote’s accuracy. Also, the quote-taker might not be a native speaker of whatever language the athlete’s speaking.

So if you see someone in a mixed zone ranting as follows:

I was robbed. That ref was clearly watching beach volleyball instead of us. Yeah, my opponent played well, but he also took out a small knife and slashed my knee open right in front of the ref! I can’t believe this crap. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings that he didn’t end my career, and you’d better believe I’m going to trash some rooms.

You’ll get this quote.

My opponent played well. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings.

So I was surprised to see this from fourth-place high jumper Stefan Holm of Sweden:

I had a bit of luck four years ago in Athens, but shit happens.

ONS might be getting a little punchy near the end of the Games, as are many of us.

Speaking of sanitation, here’s a little sign to remind the media that plumbing in Beijing ain’t what they might be used to back home:

Off to catch the bus back to get a good night’s sleep, believe it or not.

journalism, personal

Chinese transit and toilets

By now you’ve probably read my account of kidnapping and hitchhiking in Qinhuangdao. OK, that’s a little too dramatic, but it was a harrowing experience. Nothing like staying up all night after you’ve arrived 12 time zones from home.

The only other problem with the efficient transit system: The buses run painfully slow. Supposedly, that’s for our own safety. As we all know, slower doesn’t equal safer, particularly when you’re changing lanes on a freeway. Today, on the way to the badminton venue, our bus driver attempted to merge through several lanes to the “Olympic” lane, drawing frantic honks from the short-fused drivers here. Then, about a mile later, she had to work her way back through all the lanes to exit. Flooring it in the right lane would’ve been much less frightening.

Just a random photo of a Wal-Mart (look for the blue sign)
Just a random photo of a Wal-Mart (look for the blue sign)

At the badminton venue, I encountered my first “squat” toilet. I remember reading about these, but I figured I wouldn’t see one unless I wandered off somewhere to an old building. Nope — there it was, right there in the spanking-new Beijing University of Technology gymnasium (not to be confused with the Beijing Science and Technology University gymnasium, as an Irish reporter did today before realizing badminton had no weight classes, or the Beijing Institute of Technology gymnasium). It looks like a toilet except that the seat is level with the floor. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it, nor did I remember my camera.

Back in Qinhuangdao, the closest restroom to the media tribune (“press row,” in U.S. terms, though it’s several rows) was unisex. Stalls and urinals, thankfully with large dividers. The staff put up a sign asking people to close the doors behind them. The sign was ignored.

The media center is no better. The restrooms nearest us are on a corridor. The doors are never closed. Then people stop to chat in the corridor, though it’s narrow, smelly and offers a view of people zipping up.

We could put up a sign, but the media center offers more proof that journalists can’t read. The waste bins are all in pairs — one recyclable, one “other waste.” You certainly couldn’t tell a difference from looking at the bins.

The Aussies have found a better use for the corridor, at least. Here’s an impromptu cricket match:

Aussie cricket
Aussie cricket

Generally, though, I have few complaints. The people are so friendly that the journalists are reflexively suspicious of them. The food is OK, though I’m starting to shy away from all meat that isn’t at McDonald’s. And today, I interviewed three badminton players — a shy American, a charming Canadian and an excitable Irishman.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Tianjin for more soccer. It’ll be a successful day if I arrive back in Beijing anywhere close to the correct time.