Bad air, bird's nest and bravery

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2007, 12:00am

331 days to go ; Our weekly series counts down to the Games

Smog concerns

As Beijing celebrated the one-year countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games, Olympic chief Jacques Rogge highlighted a major concern. Speaking to the world's press a year to the day before the opening of the Beijing Games, the IOC president mentioned the unwelcome topic of Beijing's air pollution.

It is no secret that the poor quality of the capital's air has worried Olympics organisers for some time. But Dr Rogge's speaking about the problem on news programmes broadcast all over the world showed how serious it has become.

Dr Rogge said that some endurance sports might have to be postponed if Beijing's poor air quality posed problems for athletes. A spokesperson for the Beijing Olympics commented that the concerns had made organisers more determined to work harder to sort out the city's environmental problems before August 2008.


1 What does the phrase 'a year to the day' mean?

a) The exact day one year before or after an event.

b) The anniversary of a special event.

2 What does the phrase 'it is no secret that' mean?

a) No one knows anything about it.

b) Everyone knows that.

The Bird's Nest

The Beijing Olympic Stadium is set to be a landmark that will put China's capital on the world map of amazing modern architecture. The building is breathtaking, with an innovative design that makes it a fitting showpiece for the world's largest sporting event. The unique design certainly has the 'wow factor'.

The 2008 Olympics organising committee wanted a centrepiece that the world would notice and they have got it. Back in 2002, the Chinese government launched a competition for architects to design the main stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Swiss architects Herzog &

de Meuron joined forces with ArupSport and the China Architecture Design and Research Group and won the competition.

The stadium has already been nicknamed the 'Bird's Nest' and there have been few negative comments about the design.


3 What is a landmark?

a) A building or place that is easily recognised and helps tell you where you are.

b) A map that you use to find your way around a city.

4 If something has 'the wow factor' what does that tell you about it?

a) It is so special it takes your breath away.

b) It is boring and sends you to sleep.

The late hero

Everyone thought it was all over, but it wasn't. There was still one athlete left in the race. John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania entered the stadium, struggling to keep going. His leg was covered in blood, due to an accident while running. There were only a few spectators left because the marathon had finished over an hour before. The winners had been cheered and most people had gone home, thinking there was nothing left to see.

With painful determination, Akhwari crossed the finish line and the small crowd of spectators clapped and cheered. A reporter asked him why he had continued after injuring himself so badly when others had given up. Akhwari replied 'My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish.'


5 Which continent is Tanzania in?

a) Europe

b) Africa

6 How long is a marathon race?

a) 26 miles

b) 30 miles

Olympic Fact File

All of these Olympic facts are incorrect - see if you can spot the mistakes. Check your answers and copy the correct facts into your Olympic Fact File.

1 Jacques Rogge has expressed his concerns about the water quality in Beijing.

2 Dr Rogge has spoken to the Chinese press about his concerns.

3 A spokesperson for the Beijing Olympics has said that the city's transport problems will be improved by August 2008.

4 The competition to design the 2008 Olympic stadium was launched in 2004.

5 French architects Herzog & de Meuron are two of three partners who won the competition.

6 The Beijing Olympic Stadium is nicknamed the 'Wedding Cake'.

7 John Akhwari came first in the 1968 Olympic marathon.

8 Akhwari was a hurdler from Tanzania.


Questions: 1. a, 2. b, 3. a, 4. a, 5. b, 6. a;

Olympic Fact File: 1. air, 2. world, 3. environmental, 4. 2002, 5. Swiss, 6. Bird's Nest, 7. last, 8. marathon runner