Today: Last Update:

  • Countdown Beijing: Friendlies Renamed


    The Friendlies now are known as fuwa. (ATR) 
    Friendlies Now Fuwa

    Beijing has renamed its five Olympic mascots "fuwa", a word that organizers say should be easier for Chinese people to remember and less open to misunderstanding than the former name, Friendlies.

    The new name is a transliteration of the Chinese name for the mascots, which means lucky doll. The five mascots represent the Olympic flame, a giant panda, a swallow, a Yangtze dolphin and a Tibetan antelope.

    "The decision [to change the name] was made recently by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) at its board meeting," the official Xinhua news agency quoted an unnamed BOCOG official as saying.

    "Fuwa reads more smoothly," the official said. And we hope it helps the Chinese people to understand the mascots better," he said. "If they read about the Friendlies, they might get confused."

    Some Chinese people had criticized the name Friendlies on websites and the agency quoted an unnamed university teacher as saying the English name could be confusing.

    "'Friendlies' has the same pronunciation as 'Friendless', which may lead to misunderstanding," the teacher told Xinhua. "Moreover, 'Friendlies' could be read 'Friend lies', a completely different meaning," he said.

    Keen Chinese bloggers have also found fault with the black tail of the panda fuwa, Jingjing, with many pointing out that real giant pandas always have white tails. But BOCOG officials are unconcerned and do not admit to making a mistake, according to the Beijing News.

    "Jingjing is not just a giant panda, but rather an artistic creation based on the form of a giant panda," the newspaper quoted one official as saying.

    Taiwan Director Ang Lee On Creative Team

    Acclaimed Taiwanese movie director Ang Lee has joined the large creative team preparing opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing games. Lee, whose successes include the recent Oscar-winner Brokeback Mountain, joins others including Steven Spielberg as an adviser to Chinese director Zhang Yimou on the two ceremonies, BOCOG

    BOCOG also appointed composer Wu Zuqiang and He Zhenliang, Chinese IOC member and the chairman of the IOC Commission on Culture.

    Tomb Halts Work at Shooting Range

    Work was suspended at the Olympic shooting range after construction workers found a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tomb under the site. The find follows the discovery of several more tombs about 100 meters away in
    May, the Beijing Times said.

    Urban Residents to get 10 Open-Air Theaters

    Beijing plans to build 10 open-air theaters by 2008 and arrange for them to show movies in urban areas across the city. The 1
    0 "cultural service centers" will also be used for "artistic performances, reading, training, keep-fit and other recreational and entertainment purposes", said Jiang Gongmin, head of the municipal culture bureau.

    Police Target Street Crime

    The Beijing Public Security Bureau has doubled the number of plainclothes police officers on patrol in a bid to curb robbery, drug dealing and other street crime.

    The bureau has a new force of 1,200 plainclothes officers, double the previous force of 600. They will be used mainly at railway and bus stations, hotels, restaurants and busy commercial areas, and will also patrol areas near venues for important international events in Beijing.

    "This special team will be an essential supplement to the city's existing police force," said Ma Xichu, deputy director of the bureau's criminal unit. "It'll help reduce street crime as offenders won't be able to identify plainclothes officers," Ma said. Some of the officers may carry handguns, he said.

    Beijing has relatively little street crime compared with other major international cities, but many local people are worried by a recent rise in robberies.

    Reported by Bill Smith in Beijing.

    Your best source of news about the 2008 Olympics is, for subscribers only.