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OLYMPIC REVIEW53 POPULARITY Crowds are a colourful feature of any sports event, particularly the Olympic Games. Their presence can stimulate athletes, giving valuable support to home teams and competitors but also encouraging others to reach new heights. They give the intangible quality of atmosphere to an event and provide a fervent backdrop to the competitions taking place in front of them. Their applause can also add to the satisfaction of the competitors themselves. In Beijing, the spectators provided a memorable presence to the Olympic competitions, especially in the Bird's Nest, the 91,000- capacity main stadium, whose seven- storey, saddle- shaped, elliptical design, with interlocking ' branches' and ' twigs', was the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as football and athletics events. Using the splendidly wide concourses, which enveloped the stadium, the crowds responded to Beijing's hosting of the Olympic Games by packing the venue from the first morning of the track and field to the final evening. Their disappointment when Liu Xiang, the defending 110 metre hurdles champion, had to withdraw because of injury, although he bravely tried to start his heat, was palpable but the Chinese spectators maintained a decorum which was especially pleasing. Even if they were deprived of seeing a highlight of the athletics programme, they realised that they were still able to observe the world's greatest competitors in action. The design of the venue meant that all the spectators had superb views of the events and they reacted magnificently. The fact that the stadium was invariably full just added to the atmosphere, with the crowds revelling in being able to witness the exploits in front of them. Noisy but knowledgeable, they formed a particular bond with Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian world record- holder and defending pole vault champion. This discipline is always one of the most spectacular among the track & field events. The duel with the American Jenn Stuczynski was only a prelude for Isinbayeva's ambitions. Although the U. S. athlete had vowed that she was going to beat the Russian, she could only clear 4.80 metres, which Isinbayeva easily exceeded. To the delight of the crowd, Isinbayeva then attempted to beat her own world record by a centimetre by going over 5.05 metres. The crowd urged her on, applauding as she raced down the run- way and then groaning with disappointment when she failed on her first two attempts. Then on the third and final effort, she slithered over the bar and the spectators rose to her, a true example of the power of Olympism. Isinbayeva then jogged round the track carrying her country's flag, stopping occasionally to accept congratulations from members of the crowd as they swarmed down the steps to be closer to their heroine. They were no less enthusiastic with the exploits of the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. After each of his three victories, he produced his ' lightning bolt' pose, which the spectators loved. The appreciation and behaviour of the crowds was one unforgettable feature of an unforgettable Olympic Games. BIRD'SNEST CROWD LeftPacked and enthusiastic crowds were one of the most memorable elements of the Beijing Games – especially in the 91,000 capacity Bird's Nest which was full for every single session

54OLYMPIC REVIEW POPULARITY How did China Daily manage to produce such comprehensive coverage of each day of the Games? We set up the biggest ever team for a single project in China Dailyhistory. We had 16 reporters in the front line ( eight in Beijing and another eight in the co- host cities). We also had many editors with some coming from overseas such as Great Britain, India, Singapore and Malaysia. Everybody worked really hard because they knew how significant the Beijing Games were for China and its people. How did you find the working environment for the Media? I think BOCOG provided the media with a superb working environment. The MPC facilities were first class. It had everything a journalist needed: free internet lounge, canteen providing cheap and good food, well- equipped working rooms, hair-dressing room, gym and even massage room. I also loved what BOCOG did with the transportation hub. I could also find an equally pleasant working environment at the different venues and that made my work much easier. What did you think of the foreign media's reporting of the Games? I was very impressed with the scale of the foreign media's reporting of China and the Games. I knew it would be huge but still I was thrilled to find out almost all media organisations sent a record reporting team to Beijing. I have never seen such an intensive reporting of China before. The unprecedented coverage just proves how much the world wants to know China better and how much China means to the world. Did the Games lead to changes in the way you were able to work? I did not have any difficulty reporting on the Games, just like previous Games that I have been to. I think the Chinese government did its best to open up to the world and I appreciate its efforts. How do you think the world's view of China will have changed as a result of the Games? China has an old saying: " Seeing is believing". The Beijing Games gave the world an opportunity to get to know the real China. Good or bad, those findings help the world to better understand the nation and its people. The Games helped China to leave a good impression on the world. YUYILEI SPORTS EDITOR, CHINA DAILY RightChina Daily Sports Editor Yu Yilei oversaw his paper's Olympic coverage How did Beijing differ from past Games in your opinion? It was the fourth Games I have attended. Visually everything was on such a huge scale – the venues, the Opening Ceremony… It will probably never be repeated but it was thrilling to be there for it. I was on the field of play during the Opening Ceremony and only when I got back home after the Games and watched it did I realise how much had been going on that I had missed on the evening. What sports did you enjoy photographing most? The gold medal basketball game was great as it obviously featured Kobe Bryant and a host of other NBA stars. The other sport I most enjoyed was a handball game between Russia and Egypt. The Russians were one of the best teams in the world and the Egyptians were ranked way down but the game wasn't decided until the final seconds, which made it a thrilling contest for the spectators. I didn't really know a lot about handball as it is not played in the US but it was fast and explosive, providing lots of opportunities for photographers to make great shots. What was your favourite photo? It was one that might not win many awards but during the Opening Ceremony Yao Ming walked on carrying the Chinese flag, holding the hand of a small boy who had survived the earthquake. From my position down on the field, Yao looked like a giant with his huge flag while the boy in contrast looked tiny, waving two small flags. I always look for a shot that no other photographers get and this was one – which was no mean achievement given the number who were at the Ceremony. JOHNHUET IOCPHOTOGRAPHER RightChinese basketball star Yao Ming carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony, accompanied by a young survivor of the earthquake in Sichuan