On the Beijing Beat: Small step or great leap forward? Vote now...

Is China on the path to democracy? We think so, and it seems that the Communist Party might just be taking the opportunity of the Games to send that message out, albeit with some subtlety, to the international community and locals alike.

Exhibit A is an intriguing feature in the mouthpiece publication, The China Daily, about, errm, reality shows on Chinese TV. It talks about the recent smash hit The Disciple, which was a kind of The Apprentice except involving Jackie Chan instead of Alan Sugar and kung fu instead of business. It also mentions Super Girls (a Chinese Pop Idol), and its spin-offs My Hero and Super Boys. It explains of Super Girls: "Viewers can vote by text messages for their favourite and their votes help to decide the contestants' fate, which is a totally new concept on Chinese TV." And then there's the revelatory sentence: "The voting segment is now widely believed to be one of the key factors in the show's popularity."

The great leap forward to an election is only a matter of time, we reckon. Although the piece also says: "In Chinese talent shows, friendship among the contestants is highlighted and praised, while competitiveness is frowned upon." And: "Chinese reality shows are less dramatic and fierce, more harmonious and morality oriented, compared to their counterparts on Western TV. No Jerry Springer here!"

It's written in the stars, perhaps

All manner of studies have been done to try to ascertain what makes a good Olympian, and one analyst receiving attention here is a British statistician, Kenneth Mitchell, who details "the Pisces Effect" (fish-starred people win 30 per cent more medals in aquatic events) and various other phenomena on his site, olympicstarsign.com. The diary prefers to examine things in reverse, asking what the types of medal that a nation wins says about its people. A sizeable majority of China's medals have come in events either involving grace (seven diving golds, nine gymnastics) or force (eight weightlifting, five shooting). The British win medals sitting down (seven cycling golds, four sailing, two rowing), while Russia is simultaneously athletic (five golds) and aggressive (six in wrestling). Germany is the only nation with at least one bronze, one silver and one gold in men's events, women's events and mixed/open events, and they are across a broader range of sports than most nations. What it all means, we know not. Answers on the back of chopstick, please.

A snapshot of Chinese security

Security is generally tight here, but sporadic, while priorities in this field are odd. Hence the diarist was able on Wednesday evening to get within about 20 feet of the running track, and might easily have joined the men's 5,000 metres but for the inability to run that fast. Yet get out a camera without the right badge round your neck, and, hey presto, two people jumping up and down saying: "No photo, no photo."

A Thorpe's dozen

Says Ian Thorpe of über-fishman Michael Phelps: "Because of the way he performed [here], he could potentially win 12 [golds in London]. But like when I made the comment about whether he'd win eight here [Thorpe said no], it depends very much on him." Thanks for that, Ian.

Nick Harris

Word on the street

Surname: Zhang.

Given name: Yaya.

Age: 23.

Occupation: Olympic volunteer in Beijing.

Why have you chosen to be an Olympic volunteer? Do you enjoy it? I have always wanted to be a volunteer, looking after old people or something. Sometimes it's boring, but when you manage to help it feels great.

What is the worst thing about the Olympics in Beijing? The TV! Chinese media coverage is way too over the top. The news is dominated by the Olympics; at least half is the Olympics. Chinese news is bad enough anyway, too much empty talk.

Have you seen any strange foreigners? When I was watching the opening ceremony on the big screen at the Workers' Stadium there were a load of people, Madagascan I think, shouting about their country. Chinese people got angry... maybe not angry, but they started to compete by chanting "Go China!" That group of Chinese must have thought, "This is our Olympics". Chinese people can be sensitive like that.

Have you been following Britain's progress during the Games?

I was surprised to see that you were third in the table.

Why is that? Maybe it's something to do with the fact that the Olympics are coming to London. I'm not really sure what Britain is best at. I saw the kindergarten bikes – BMXs I mean.

What is your reaction to claims that the Olympics have been overpoliticised by China? The Western media thinks too much. Olympics are an advert for China, one that we have invested a lot in. If that is what you call "politicised", then fine. Every country would do this.

Jeremy Webb

Alternative guide

For those Chinese not familiar with the sounds of the Roman alphabet, names of people and places used in English are spelt out using the Chinese characters that best represent how the syllables of that word sound.

Chinese announcers at Olympic events have used the following renditions of some of our gold medallists: Ben An-si-li – the sailor Ben Ainslie; Ke-li-si Huo-yi – cyclist Chris Hoy; and Li-bei-ka A-de-lin-dun – swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Can you work out which surnames the following refer to? Fei-er-pu-si, Na-er-de, Bo-er-te*.

Meanwhile, one of only eight plays permitted during the Cultural Revolution, Red Detachment of Women, will be familiar to anyone who lived through modern China's most turbulent period. First performed in 1964, it depicts a peasant girl's rise through party ranks and was noted for its fusion of Western ballet with Chinese folk dancing.

Tonight at Beijing's National Centre for Performing Arts visitors will havea chance to see this brilliantly preserved relic of Communist China's past.

* Phelps, Nadal, Bolt

Jeremy Webb

Today at the Games

The main event

15.10 Athletics The final of the men's 4x100m relay and a chance for Jamaica's Usain Bolt to win his third gold medal of the Games after his victories in the 100m and 200m. With no US or GB team in the final, can anyone else get enough of a lead to stop the lightning Bolt on the last leg? Probably not.

Brit watch

08.30 Canoeing Tim Brabants, who was fastest in qualifying, races for gold in the first of his two finals, the 1,000m kayak single (K1).

12.20 Athletics Britain's Jade Johnson competes in the women's long jump final against Carolina Kluft, the former queen of the heptathlon.

14.46 Boxing Italy's Roberto Cammarelle stands in the way of David Price's attempt to reach the super-heavyweight final.

Best of the rest

What you may have missed overnight...

01.30 Modern pentathlon Britain's Katy Livingston and Heather Fell started the day as medal contenders in the women's event.

02.00 Cycling Britain's Shanaze Reade was racing in her BMX semi-final, postponed from today.

04.00 Hockey Britain's women faced Australia in a match to decide fifth and sixth place.

04.15 Tae kwon do Britain's Aaron Cook began his medal quest in the men's under-80kg category.

Coming up later today...

08.01 Boxing Britain's James Degale and Ireland's Darren Sutherland fight for a place in the middleweight final.

12.00 Football Belgium meet Brazil in the men's bronze medal match.

12.00 Diving Britain's Peter Waterfield and the 14-year-old Tom Daley compete in the preliminary round of the men's 10m platform event.

12.40 Athletics Christine Ohuruogu will be back on the track in the heats of the women's 4x400m relay.

13.10 Athletics Martyn Rooney leads the British quartet in the heats of the men's 4x400m relay.

14.01 Boxing Britain's Tony Jeffries fights Ireland's Kenny Egan for a place in the light-heavyweight final.

If you want to stay up late tonight...

03.00 Diving The men's 10m platform semi-final is at 13.00.

03.45 Tae kwon do Britain's Sarah Stevenson meets Jordan's Nadin Dawani in the women's over-67kg category.

04.00 Hockey Britain face South Korea in a match to decide fifth and sixth place in the men's event.

05.00 Football Argentina defend their men's title in the final against Nigeria.

Weather watch

A much brighter and drier day with sun likely. Temperatures will reach 30C.

Sir David Attenborough
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness