Beijing bound

My last day in before heading off to run the World Service news coverage of the Olympics.  It’ll be my 4th time of covering the Games and don’t think for a second i don’t realise how privileged i am to be able to say that.


Some of the finest moments of what has laughingly been called my “career” have taken place at the Olympics. Presenting from a winter swimming club on Bondi beach, watching Denise Lewis winning gold, seeing the baseball final in Atlanta, watching my mate Simon competing in Athens, i realise i’ve been lucky.

But i can’t say i’m looking forward to this one (and make no mistake, i love the Olympics) , and i’m not sure why. Oh, and i know there’ll be a good few of you willing to take my place if i don’t get over myself..

Maybe because It’s hard to know what to expect – they could end up being the greatest Games of the modern era ( a title held in many people’s opinion by Sydney at the moment), or they could be organised and managed and officiated to death.

The early arrivals from other parts of the BBC report things going pretty smoothly but we are still a week away from the opening ceremony, but all the same, the signs are encouraging.

It’s always good to see how a city is “lifted” by the Olympics – i’d been to Atlanta and Sydney before the games so was able to compare, but i’ve never been to Beijing before so i’ll rely on James , Shirong and Rebecca on my team to tell me how the place has changed.

I can’t promise a WHYS – but if i can get an audience together who’ll talk with you at 1.00 am Beijing time, i’ll do it. 

So, let me know your thoughts and opinions as the Olympics unfolds, tell me how the Games are being covered in your country, and alert me to stories that h you hear about that deserve a wider audience. Post here or e-mail me directly at Mark.Sandell@bbc.co.uk.

UPDATE: James recieved this e-mail from one of his contacts in the city..

Thanks for your calling. I am sorry to tell you that in Beijing,we cann’t get access to wordpress.So, I can’t read https://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/.”

So if this is true you may have to disregard what i said above. I’ll do what i can ..

and if you’re particularly keen i’ll do regular updates on Twitter

37 Responses to “Beijing bound”

  1. 1 Brett
    July 31, 2008 at 12:43

    Have fun! Stay safe!

  2. July 31, 2008 at 12:47

    Here, in Hong Kong, The Beijing Olympics is a big thing partly because we are now a part of China and the Equestrian event is held here. Surely there will be news on radio, newspaper, and in every other media. As far as I know, one of the main television broadcaster ( I would say it is pro-China as well ), ATV, has set up 4 new channels (including one HD channel) on digital for whole coverage of the Olympics. Perhaps the headline of every news in the next month will be about Olympics!!

    Also, have fun (or report well) in Beijing!!

  3. 3 Angela in Washington D.C.
    July 31, 2008 at 12:53

    Enjoy the food. Have fun!

  4. 4 Andrew
    July 31, 2008 at 12:55

    Beijing might be lifted by the games being held there, but it will be a temporary euphoria as the daily grind will set in quickly after it is gone. The government will go to great lengths to make sure things run on time and the streets are clean, no protests or smog in the skies. But once it is over and the press and the tourists leave you will be left with the same regime that was there beforehand. Just seeing the developments with censorship should tell you that. Is it any surprise that China is going back on what it said it would do to secure the games. Rogge must be either very optimistic or very dim to have taken their word on the set conditions, especially as he believes the games will open and enlighten China. It wont enlighten the regime in power. And now they can do what they will with only a week left and what will happen? Will athletes boycott or the IOC cancel the games in retaliation. Of course not. Sadly, this will just be a robotic showpiece of a tired and repressive regime as indicated by the opening ceremony. Yes the Chinese people can be proud, but surely not of their government.

  5. 5 Dennis
    July 31, 2008 at 13:05


    I hope you have a “good” time in Beijing…

    Syracuse, New York

  6. 6 Mark Sandell
    July 31, 2008 at 13:13

    Thanks Dennis and Brett for your good wishes.
    And Michael, thank you too and rest assured we’ll report well….

  7. 7 Bob in Queensland
    July 31, 2008 at 13:17

    Have a good trip Mark–having done a few Olympics myself (technician, not athlete I better admit) I’m both envious of your assignment–and a bit relieved at not having two weeks of sleepless nights and constant stress!

    If you can’t access WordPress/the WHYS site from there, surely that’s the biggest story you could do!

  8. 8 John in Salem
    July 31, 2008 at 13:26

    You will be witnessing history for sure by covering the only Olympics that China will ever host since – after reneging on the promises of openess and access – it is doubtful the IOC will consider them again.
    Enjoy the show.

  9. July 31, 2008 at 13:28

    Hi Mark,

    Enjoy your stay in China. I wonder if you have equipped yourself with basic Chinese to communicate with people there.

    As you know, when Ros is on a trip to a country, he doesn’t forget to put pictures of it on the WHYS flicker. I hope you’ll enrich it with your own impressive ones.

    I also hope, you’ll enjoy Chinese special beers.

    I also hope you’ll send your reports in your own voice. Actually I heard your voice just twice: on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDabqu6daK8 and on BBC programme Over to You.

    For those who are going to China, the BBC has suggestions about what to do or not to do there: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7511876.stm

    Once again, have a very enjoyable stay in China!

  10. 10 selena
    July 31, 2008 at 13:40

    Hi Mark,

    I am sure you will have a wonderful time in Beijing. It is a city of contrasts and that will, no doubt, interest you.

    When I was there, I had no trouble getting on the Internet. I sent material from there daily, even from Internet cafes in out of the way places. Things may have changed because of the Olympics but maybe not.

    You may find the pollution is not so bad either. Sometimes such things are in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

    And everyone I met, without exception, spoke English.

    Take care of yourself and, above all, have a ball. We will look forward to your reports.

  11. 11 nelsoni
    July 31, 2008 at 13:45

    Hi Mark. Enjoy your trip and do send us daily updates and pictures. And please find away to bypass the great china firewall so you can access word press from there. Enjoy.

  12. 12 Dennis
    July 31, 2008 at 14:02


    Find a way to by-pass the great china wall…

    Syracuse, New York

  13. 13 nelsoni
    July 31, 2008 at 14:08

    Mark Please Please. I believe you can because nothing is impossible. Organize a WHYS from china. That would be top drawer. If necessary, we are prepared to sign an online petition to that effect. I hoping to hear “… Welcome to the BBC’s World have your say from Beijing, China.” very soon. 🙂

  14. July 31, 2008 at 14:15

    Ah my dearest Mark… Many centuries ago an Arab wiseman once said to his followers : “You seek for knowledge even if it were in China !!! “… He said that in order to urge his followers to go after knowledge even if that’ll make them go through so many difficulties and go to places which are so exotic and so far away from where they are… Mark Sandell, you seek for knowledge down there in China, don’t you ever let ‘THEM’ control the quality of your reporting from there, have fun, eat well and sleep well OK ?! And please say hi to James Reynolds for me OK ?! Ask him whether he’s interested in working as a BBC Baghdad correspondent !!! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  15. July 31, 2008 at 14:31

    Hi Mark, I’m sure to be in China before the end of the Olympics. I know it will be a good olympics. Mark I like to know if people have access to WHYS in China?

  16. 16 ZK
    July 31, 2008 at 14:33

    Nelsoni: At 1 am in the morning… it’s not going to be easy. It’s probably one reason why they’ve never held a live WHYS from this area of the world (Asia-Pacific).

  17. July 31, 2008 at 14:33

    @nelsoni, I’ll be the first to sign the petition. Mark just try your possible best.

  18. July 31, 2008 at 15:26

    Also my dearest Mark, make sure to find us some Chinese HUMMERS down there in Beijing OK ?! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  19. 19 Dennis
    July 31, 2008 at 17:54


    Where are we going to set up this petition for

    Syracuse, NY

  20. 20 nelsoni
    July 31, 2008 at 17:57

    @ ZK
    July 31, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    nothing is impossible

  21. 21 nelsoni
    July 31, 2008 at 18:02

    @ Mohammed Ali
    July 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    It seems that wordpress.com is blocked in china and as such you can not access the WHYS blog.

  22. 22 Will Rhodes
    July 31, 2008 at 18:27

    Mark – WordPress.com and .org are both banned in China – they are a blogging platforms the Chinese won’t allow.

    What you can do now that the BBC is unbanned http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7535280.stm, the English language site was unbanned a while ago, you could transfer content to the BBC to be placed on WordPress WHYS.

    Whether that would mean you were closed down I have no idea, but it is a possibility? They will be watching as we all know, but – good luck and have a great games!

  23. 23 Jens
    July 31, 2008 at 18:32


    is there such a word as unbanned? Sounds a bit like unswitched off. 😉

  24. 24 Venessa
    July 31, 2008 at 19:21


    Enjoy your trip. I was in Beijing a couple years ago (February 2006) and the Olympic hype was in full swing. Everyone was selling 2008 Olympic t-shirts and the count down clock across from Tienemmans Square was already ticking away. I am a bit envious of your assignment! Hopefully you will be able to get through the red tape censoring to report back to us.

    If you get a chance (make the reservation now) have dinner at Li’s Family Restaurant. The meal I had there was phenomenal and it was an adventure to get there.


  25. 25 Will Rhodes
    July 31, 2008 at 19:31

    Un-banned, Jens, un-banned. 😛

  26. 26 steve b - uk
    August 1, 2008 at 06:05

    good luck, mark

    a WHYS special from China? yes,yes,yes,yes…..

  27. 27 Katharina in Ghent
    August 1, 2008 at 09:34

    Good luck, Mark, and have a great time. I hope you’ll find the greatest freedom possible there to report facts to us, that we have to stay behind.

  28. August 1, 2008 at 10:02

    Mark, is the WHYS websites among those websites that are unblocked? How long will this access to internet last if any idea?

  29. 29 mark sandell
    August 3, 2008 at 06:02

    Just to say I’ve just arrived in Beijing. Loads of volunteers, very helpful and efficient (and smiley)m
    Smoggy yes, but there’s a real buzz about the place.
    Oh and the apartment place we’re in thoughtfully left a small toy pada on my bed.
    We have a view of the Birds Nest ,which is awesome.

  30. 30 nelsoni
    August 3, 2008 at 10:34

    @ Mark. Hope you had a nice trip. Can you access WHYS from china or you got around the great china firewall? Either way do give us regular updates. And Mark one more thing, we are all expecting to hear ” … Welcome to the BBC’s World Have Your Say Live from Beijing, China.” We are counting on you Mark. 🙂

  31. 31 Will Rhodes
    August 3, 2008 at 16:48

    I was going to ask you the same thing, Mark – did you post directly? I was surprised you were in the moderating queue last night.

    But I hope you had a great trip and am looking forward to your reports.

  32. 32 Luz Ma from Mexico
    August 3, 2008 at 17:24

    Have a great time there! I am looking forward to the BBC coverage of the Olympics. And enjoy the food 😉

  33. 33 Andrew
    August 3, 2008 at 17:27

    Funny thing about the Olympics this time around. Apart from a curiosity to see how robotic the precicion teams will perform and apart from all the prior issues I don’t feel compelled to watch what Beijing will do/has done because there will be that undertone of… “see how the glorious motherland performs, praise to the motherland and to the People’s Republic.”

    There is only so much of it you can take. Yes there is always national pride on show and national achievement demonstrated, but when you consider how it got there, in this case, and what it costs in terms of money to the people it is almost shameful to give this event any hint of legitimacy.

    But that’s just me being cynical!

  34. 34 selena
    August 3, 2008 at 17:55


    All Olympics disrupt the lives of people in the host countries?

    Are you saying it is worse in Beijing? If so, how?

  35. 35 Andrew
    August 3, 2008 at 18:22


    Just take for example the forced evictions, the people whose lives have been devastated as just an example, so that China can show off their achievement in putting up their Olympic dream there was really no consideration given to anyone who stood in the way of the greater good.

    People who opposed the construction boom that was generated on the back of the Olympics were targetted many beaten up in the middle of the night and left for dead. Many people who the government felt threatened by have been ‘removed’ from the capital.

    But it is the hypocrisy of how the government makes the point of showing off the dream and the accomplishment on the back of much suffering by the people who they supposedly represent. The crackdown on people, even under Chinese standards has been severe and swift.

    Other than the opportunity to make huge sums and the fact the rest of the world seems tied to Chinese markets for trade and labour, These games would never have been given over to China but for the lure of money. I also hold the IOC culpable, but judging by their past behaviour I don’t consider them to be a very moral organisation either.

  36. 36 selena
    August 3, 2008 at 18:34

    @ Andrew

    Where is the actual proof? Whenever there are big construction projects, in any country, people have to move.

    The 2010 Olympics are not that good for the people of Vancouver either. it is disrupting life and making things very expensive for ordinary people.

    Perhaps I am biased because I have spent some time in China and I never witnessed any of the things that I have seen talked about in the media.

  37. 37 David
    August 4, 2008 at 17:06

    There is no better place to be like China in the two months to come. Don’t miss out.

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