Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Aftershock

With the opening ceremony for the games declared a success, those connected with it can rightly shine in the glory.

Zhang Yimou, the artistic director of the four hour extravaganza, said his workload was 100 times that of making a film.

And he's been doing epics of late.

He mused: “The films are personal works, the success of which matters only to the director. But directing the Olympic Games is totally different. It determines whether the Games get off to a successful start or not.”

So no pressure there then.

Yao Ming, who plays his basketball in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, seems to be revelling in his role as a giant among his compatriots. Well he is 7ft 2ins tall and he’s at ease with his role as a sponsor friendly conduit between China and the United States.

The two countries will play on Sunday. China are the underdogs so they have nothing to lose conceded Yao. “It won’t be easy but it will be an honour and a precious memory, one that will last a lifetime,” he added.

The 27 year old is at the centre of a team that’s not expected to do well.

The people who have it tough are the one’s who’ve been built up for this Olympic moment.

The 110 metres high hurdles champion Liu Xiang has cover boy good looks and the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he tries to leap over those obstacles.

His path to retaining his Olympic crown has been slightly eased because the Cuban, Dayron Robles, grabbed his world record in June.

No such leavening of the burden for the markswoman Du Li. She won gold in Athens four years ago in the 10m air rifle coming in ahead of the Russian Lioubov Galkina and the Czech Katerina Kurkova.

But on Saturday morning Du well and truly cracked. She slumped to overall fifth and fled the shooting range in tears without talking to the waiting pack.

When she’d stopped blubbing she revealed that the pressure of defending her title on home soil and of winning the first gold medal of the games had been too much. Much too much.

Kurkova – now Emmons - who won Saturday's event, told the vultures of the Chinese press: “You swarmed around her even in her training. I can’t bear that if I’m in that situation, so I can feel what Du must have felt.”

That will be the gold medal then.