And so the Beijing Olympics 2008 have officially drawn to a close with the handover to London for 2012. I’m sure many many people dropped what they were doing to watch as much of the closing ceremony as possible, I know I did. So, what did you think of the Closing Ceremony?

It wasn’t quite on the same scale as the Opening Ceremony – a mere 200 drum performers and 1,100 silver bell dancer for the first ‘Reunion’-themed part, compared to the 2,008 drummers at the start of the Opening Ceremony. In all, 7,000 performers took part in the Closing Ceremony and they didn’t even get a chance to rehearse in the stadium in the past few days because of the Athletics.

Photo courtesy of One Ben K

It was also a very modern performance compared to how the Olympics were introduced, and the underlying message was to ‘greet and welcome guests’. The music was gorgeous – delicate and upbeat in parts, contemplative the next. The cinematic effect was beautiful, as expected of Zhang Yimou, the director. At this point, I was impressed by the 60 light wheels that ‘rolled’ into the darkened stadium, traveling along path of lights formed by the dancers, which reminded me a little of the Wall of China (even if it wasn’t intended)

Photo courtesy of rich115

As the formation changed, they were joined by followed by 200 bouncing and flying performers, which were supposed to reflect the more modern and extreme sports in the Olympics (according to the on-going BBC commentary) and finally, the opening of the closing ceremony ended as the dancers formed four passages to greet the incoming flag bearers of each country, and then the athletes.

Photo courtesy of 赤子之心

In contrast to the formal entrance of the athletes at the Opening Ceremony, everyone was allowed to run in freely. Needless to say everyone pretty much looked ecstatic and cheered at the camera 😉 This was followed by the award ceremony for the winners of the Men’s Marathon event (a new world record was set by the gold medalist WANSIRU Samuel Kamau!) and a big thank you was given to all the representatives of all the volunteers who had worked so hard to support the games.

So much more followed, that I think it would be appropriate to split this post into a few sections and write about the individual performances that really stood out for me, such as the London Handover and the musical rendition of The Moon is Bright Tonight. Please stay tuned for the next part of this series! 🙂

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Having been overwhelmed with Olympic fever, it’s been awhile since I’ve made a post relating to WordPress, but the community is as active as ever, especially with the release of WordPress 2.6.1 and the final round of voting for the WordPress Plugin Competition.

This will, fortunately for you all, be a short post with what maybe a catchy title! The good book ‘how to write a good blog post’ sites teach us that a catchy title is very helpful in attracting the attention of browsers. Whether this will be one of the popular posts as a result remains to be seen, but there is a point to this post and the title: it turns out I have been spelling that special word wrong.

That word, of course, is:


I’ve always spelt it as WordPress, and never thought more of it, so I was utterly mortified when I started reading Lorelle‘s excellent article Tips on Writing Good WordPress Tips. The first point she made (as convincingly as always) was that:

WordPress is a trademark and thus must be spelled appropriately.

That sentence came like a bolt from the heavens (or stepping on a garden rake) and I was left with a sinking feeling in my stomach – just hours before I had chided someone on the WordPress Forums about getting the name of a plugin wrong, and yet I was already making an even more fundamental mistake about something I read about almost everyday – WordPress!

That feeling of guilt happened to coincide with me reading a new post by Mark Ghosh on WLTC called Be Kind, Educate, (which is just as inspirational as Matt Mullenweg‘s Price of Freedom) where he analyses why there are so many fans of WordPress, and nature of the WP community. His last point, and the title of his article, credits Lorelle as an inspiration for his new pledge:

to be as kind as I can be … to educate everyone that cares to listen

So at the end of this post, not only am I going to spell WordPress correctly from now on, I am also going to endeavour to be a lot more patient and polite when I reply on the forums!

p/s: Apologies to anyone I’ve offended on the forums from before.

p/s2: I think I’ve patched up this site for WordPress, but if you spot any omissions, please let me know!

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I made my daily (frequent) pilgrimages to the BBC news website earlier today, and was delighted to find the headlines that:

Christine Ohuruogu won Olympic 400m gold for Britain with a stunning surge down the home straight in Beijing!

The line, taken from “ Ohuruogu grabs gold for Britain“, really summarises the amazing performance by the athlete. I watched the event on the video player (hopefully international readers can also watch the video) that showed the entire finals from the starting blocks to the parade after the sprint, and strangely, although I already knew the result, it didn’t stop the onset of nervousness that always seem to accompany ‘live’ viewing of competitive events that involve team GB.

This is probably because for about the first 300 metres, Christine Ohuruogu really didn’t look as though she was in contention for gold at all. I’m going to put this down as me being an unseasoned 400m viewer, but after watching America’s (title favourite) Sanya Richards leave her fellow runners behind in the first half of the race, I could barely watch the last stretch. But oh my god, didn’t Christine Ohuruogu impress at the end?

In that very last stretch, her speed suddenly increased and she emerged from the ‘pack’ (I mean this) of 400m sprinters to power ahead into gold! It was actually a very surreal experience watching it, dare I say a bit like watching Usain Bolt‘s captivating Men’s 100m Final performance, except she didn’t slow down.

And after reading a few more articles, it is almost for sure that the tactical performance of Christine Ohuruogu during this big moment and all of her hard work in training has paid dividends and won her this precious medal. The BBC’s Tom Fordyce called her win ‘A Tactical Masterpiece‘, where he mentions her coach, Lloyd Cowan, as one of the key players in this campaign; although according to TF, Katherine Merry (bronze medalist of the 400m in Sydney) believes that:

the victory had its roots in Ohuruogu’s decision to spend the first half of the year working on her one big weakness… …short sprints.

What is clear is that this win will go far in taking her away from the doldrums of the past two years, where she was banned for a year due to missing 3 random drug tests. I didn’t follow the story very closely, but it was genuinely sad that this could taint an otherwise impeccable record (she has won a medal at every major event that she has attended) from an obviously talented athlete and I am just very very glad that she has taken the top prize of the event. As the Telegraph’s Richard Edwards and Richard Spencer so succinctly put it (in their excellent article about Christine Ohuruogu):

From hero, to zero, to hero again.

So a huge congratulations to Christine Ohuruogu and also to all the other Olympic medalists today, such as Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy (both cycling), Paul Goodison (sailing) and Germaine Mason, who took silver on his Olympic debut for the high jump – a ‘wild card’-esque entry who wasn’t expected to win any medal. Their combined efforts, along with the rest of the GB team, have shot us to a mind-blowing third on the medals table! The gold medal tally of 16 is certainly the best that Great Britain have seen in a century!

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The article that I’m about to introduce was originally supposed to be added-on to the end of my previous post dedicated to Michael Phelps, but after being tickled pink by the tongue-in-cheek approach of Simon Barnes, I have decided that it warrants its very own post!

Although the article did initially focus (inevitably) on Phelps, The Times’ Simon Barnes couldn’t help but start to wonder: Where are all the breasts? I haven’t watched many of the women’s swimming events, but no doubt the more dedicated viewers of the sport might have noticed th change in some of the female competitors’ body shapes, as illustrated by the photo below:

I’d say she’s female, judging by the painted fingernails, but then again, you never know …

The second half of the article discusses the proven sporting merits (5 new world records!) of the new hydrodynamic Speedo LZR Racer swim suits, which, says Simon Barnes, “increases hydrodynamic efficiency by compressing the body so the muscles don’t flap about so much” when you’re in the water.

Of course, there is always a downside to such wonderful technology (according to Speedo, the new range is ultrasonically bonded so there are no seams); SB mentioned ‘wardrobe malfunctions‘ that could only have been inspired by ‘Janet Jackson’ (it happened twice to the rather unfortunate medal contender Jessica Schipper) as apparently it breaks quite easily, which has even prompted one swimmer to wear another suit underneath to save herself from baring all.

Given the track record so far (even Phelps wears the legs-only version) I think the important take-home message for other female athletes from that article is this:

It’s worth looking a bit flat-chested if you want the speed …(and) you can always regain your femininity when you have wriggled out of the damn things after the race.

For more of Simon Barnes‘ blog posts from Beijing, click on the link below!

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In what has turned out to be a very fast news day (there are so many events to cover it’s just too easy to be overwhelmed!) Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, clinched his 11th Olympic gold to become the athlete with the most Olympic golds ever!

Phelps with his latest gold medal (Credit: Getty Images)

The new record surpasses the likes of other top OIympics gold medal holders, such as the frequently mentioned Mark Spitz (also a swimmer), Larysa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi, and Carl Lewis who have all won nine Olympic gold medals a-piece.

This achievement is worthy of celebration, and it helps that Phelps is a thoroughly likeable chap really who has not only shown himself to be a dedicated swimmer, but appears to have the additional quality of being humble about his achievement, something I believe that is very endearing to almost everyone but the harshest of critics.

Some reports have called him the greatest Olympian, but I think others were more accurate in saying that this new record makes him the most successful Olympian in terms of gold medals. There was certainly a lot of debate going on the BBC’s Tom Fordyce‘s blog article Is Phelps really the greatest? which I have found to be a good read, although a number of users seem to have their pet favourite ‘great’ Olympian (including Jesse Owens). The blog post and subsequent comments continuously asks the question: What makes the ‘greatest’ Olympian?

An Olympian who has scored the most medals? The gymnast Larissa Latynina (according to Tom Fordyce) has the biggest medal total ever of 18. Or an Olympian who has scored the most golds in individual events? Carl Lewis has a claim here with 7, says TF. Or is it the Olympian who has stood the test of time and won gold in consecutive Olympiads,? Cue name drop Sir Steve Redgrave who has won 5 golds in 5 Olympic games. Mark Spitz still holds the record for the most golds in just one Olympiad (9) and even Jessie Owens is still remembered for his achievements. The TimesCalvin Shulman has helpfully produced a list of what he regards to be the Top 100 Olympics Athletes, the kind of list which is always worth a browse when reading up about such matters.

I’m going to dodge the question here, and instead move on to an amusing (but probably true, what do I know?) analysis of Phelps by Steve Parry, a former Olympic (swimming) medallist who is currently guest-blogging for the BBC. He talks in more detail about What makes Phelps so special? which was so helpfully summarised by this picture:

Essential requirements when building your perfect swimming robot…

Apparently our ‘man-of-the-moment’ has short legs but a long torso, which really helps with the swimming speed since there is “less drag and more propulsion“; and according to Steve Parry, being a “6ft 4ins, 83kg man” generally means you’re seriously under-weight! Like Ian Thorpe, Phelps also has the added advantage of having extremely large paddle-like hands and flipper-like feet (SP helpfully points out that Phelps is a size-14) which help propel him even further through the water.

Combine these features with:

  • a longer than average wing-span
  • low body fat
  • muscles that produce half the lactic acid of rivals

and there you have it, the essential guide on how to become the next swimming world champion… and possibly another great Olympian!

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