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Rice throwing & dragon-boat racing at Chinese National Peasant Games

This week the Chinese National Peasant Games in southern city Quanzhou opened.

The contestants taking part in this event are not your usual athletic sprinters and high-jumpers. For starters, they are all peasants. 

Secondly, rather than the Olympic-standardised events that take place every four years, you are more likely to see sporting events that are a little quirky and out of the ordinary.

Peasants perform their everyday farming duties here but this time it is competitive and usually in a race of some sort. 

Although ‘normal’ sporting events such as basketball or table tennis do take place at the Peasant Games, it is the more unusual and ‘rural’ competitors that receive attention. For example, the rice transplanting or tyre-pushing races.

There is a ’60-metre snatch the grain and get it into storage’ event where competitors have to drag a harvest of sandbags onto their tricycles and then race to the finishing line.

The farm-working athletes

The Beijing Olympics 2008 may have caught the world by its horns, but it is the National Peasant Games that rings true to the 750 million peasants and farm-workers of China.

Over 3,000 peasants are competing for medals in this National sporting event, which has taken place every four years since 1988.

However, this is not just an opportunity for the peasants of China to transform their physical labour into competitive diversments for the week.

It is a chance to demonstrate their talents to the rest of their home country. Unsurprisingly, China is ‘brimming with pride at the sporting prowess’ of its rural habitants.

Manual rural labourers account for the majority of China’s 1.3 billion people. The poorer people of China still face difficult struggles to climb out of century-old exploitative traditions.

The National Peasant Games sheds light on their situation and could inadvertently provide long-term help for the farmers and peasants of China.

Li Quanquan, the rice-sprinter

Bamboo stick with baskets of rice swung over her shoulders, Li Quanquan sprints down the track to plant the fake rice seedlings a stimulated paddy field in the stadium.

The Telegraphreport that 23 year old Li and her family plant chilli peppers on a plot in the central Henan province for a living.

“Back home life is pretty hard, so this is our chance to show the country and the world what we do and our skills and abilities”.

The Timesreport that Xie Hong, 22 left the family farm to compete in the in the rice-transplanting heat.

Xie says: “Although we were not able to attend the Beijing Olympics, this is our dream, our farmers’ Olympics… I do this back home, so it’s closely matched to my daily life.”

You can view AFP’s coverage of this event and Xie Hong here.

And for a background article on the National Peasant Games please see here.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Background: The Chinese National Peasant Games

This Thursday saw the National Peasant Games open in China. Please see my ‘Don’t Know?’ article for the coverage of this event.
 
An incredible 750 million Chinese peasants are now going to see what they consider to be the real version of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
 
The National Peasant Games takes place once every four years and typically last one week. It is is a multisport event in China where competitors from the country’s peasants take part in sports.
 
The sports can be either conventional or traditional. A spectator would typically expect to see anything from basketball, table tennis or athletics, to dragon boat racing and lion dancing.
 
China’s 31 provinces are all represented in this quadrennial National gaming event, and is the world’s only regular sports competing get-together delegated only to peasants.
 
Xinhua news agency state that the Peasant Games place more emphasis on recreational rather than competitive results. This creates a very different atmosphere to that of the Olympics.

China held their first National Peasants’ Games in 1988. The last Peasant gaming event of this type took place in October 2004 in Yichun, a Jiangxi province. Over 2,500 athletes took part.

Quanzhou

In medieval Western language this province is known as ‘Zaytun’ or ‘Zaitun’. In the modern English language it is sometimes referred to as ‘Chinchew’ or ‘Chinchu’.

Quanzhou has a population of 7.52 million people and has 12 county level divisions.

It was during the Chinese Tang Dynasty when Quanzhou was first established. During this zeitgeist, Quanzhou was to become China’s largest seaport.

One interesting little fact about Quanzhou is that it was listed as the starting point of Marco Polo’s expedition to escort the 17-year-old Mongol princess Kokochin to her new husband in the Persian Ilkhanate.

The province is mainly coastal. It has many steep mountains and long rivers. Quanzhou has a large and successful agriculture of rice, tea, lychee and bananas. It also has many granite quarries and produces ceramics.

Quanzhou is one of the 24 national cultural historic cities approved by the Chinese Government. This is predominantly because of its Liyuan and Gaojian operas and intricate puppet shows.

The 2008 Games

This year the National Peasants’ Games are being held in an eastern Fujian province, Quanzhou.

It is the sixth time that this event has taken place in China and it officially started on 26 October 2008. There are 3,500 athletes competing at over 180 events in 15 sports.

This peasant event has cost almost one billion yuan (£90 million). This is due to renovation and construction of 15 stadiums. The stadiums include a 32,000 seat venue and the Straits Stadium which are used for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Rice Transplanting

So far this week there have been many sporting events at the National Peasants’ Games. One of these is the rice transplanting race.

Rice is a staple food in Asia and has a long history. There is a widely-believed myth in China that rice used to be sold to the Gods in exchange for animals.

Over a long period of time the Chinese have developed rice-growing process on farms by using puddling soil and then transplanting the seedlings.

The puddling breaks down the density of the soil so it can retain its water. The seedlings are transported when they reach between one to six weeks.

This transplanting of the rice seedling helps the farmer to work the rice field more efficiently, therefore producing a higher yield.

Industrialised countries such as South Korea use mechanic rice transplanters rather than the manual process described above. Although it saves time and labour, the rice transplanter machines are expensive are not used in most areas of China.

The video below demonstrates the manual rice transplanting process in Asia.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , | 1 Comment

AIESEC: a background

Some background information on AIESEC exchanges.

AIESEC is an acronym for Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales.

It now invlolves students from all fields.

The idea of AIESEC exchanges started in the 1930s in a small scale, but it was officially founded in 1948. It became more and more popular in the 1960s and 1070s and the exchanges were organised through international seminars.  In the 1990s the Internet revolutionalized the way that the exchanges take place.

AIESEC presents itself as “the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential”. The exchange programme is only a part of its activities. AIESEC provides initiatives to young people to be creative through leadership and teamwork. In 2008 AIESEC celebrated its 60th anniversary.

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | 1 Comment

Background: The Curse of Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film in the James Bond series, will have its world premiere in London’s Leicester Square tonight.

Organisers will surely be hoping that the evening passes without being struck by the so called ‘Curse of Bond’.

A series of accidents beset the filming of the latest 007 adventure, including fire, injuries and crashes.

Car crashes

In April, engineer Fraser Dunn, 29, was injured when he accidentally drove a car being used for filming into Lake Garda in Italy.

He was delivering the Aston Martin DBS, which was worth £134,000, when he lost control on a bend and careered into the lake.

A few weeks later, Greek stuntman, Aris Comninos, suffered serious head injuries in a second crash.

He had been driving an Alfa Romeo 159 for a chase sequence which opens the film, when it was hit by a lorry.

Stabbing

In an even more bizarre incident, a technician working on the film was stabbed with a steak knife in a domestic dispute.

The 58 year old British man was apparently attacked by a woman whom he had met in a bar.

She had allegedly invited him back to her home in Donbirn, Austria, where the incident took place.

Fire

It wasn’t just the people who suffered mishaps.

An outdoor set being used for filming at Pinewood Studios caught fire.

This was just two years after the James Bond sound stage at Pinewood was totally engulfed by flames.

Daniel Craig

Even 007 star Daniel Craig didn’t escape unscathed.

The actor, who is playing Bond for the second time, sliced off the tip of his finger whilst filming a fight scene in June.

He also had to have minor plastic surgery and eight stitches to his face when a co-star misjudged a kick in a different combat sequence.

According to BBC online, Craig is also now sporting a sling after a shoulder operation.

Craig, though, rejects the idea of a curse. He told GQ’s John Naughton:

“The thing about the Curse of Bond is that it’s offensive, really…There’s a risk to everything we do and we have literally the best people in the world who do this and every precaution is taken to minimise the risk, but there is a risk.”

Related links on this blog: Quantum of Solace Premiere hits London

By Helen Catt

helen.catt@my.westminster.ac.uk

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 1 Comment

Quantum of Solace Premiere hits London

Tonight sees the world premiere of Quantum of Solace, the latest film in the highly successful James Bond franchise, at the Odeon Leicester Square.

Quantum of Solace Trailer

Daniel Craig, who currently plays the super-spy, will be attending the event.

He will be joined on the red carpet by Princes William and Harry, as well as cast members Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton and Olga Kurylenko.

The Royal pair have asked that all proceeds be donated to the Royal British Legion’s Help for Heroes campaign, which helps servicemen who have been wounded.

Got Talent

Providing some musical relief at the premiere, will be electric string quartet ‘Escala’, who shot to fame earlier this year when they reached the finals of Simon Cowell’s talent show  ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.

The four girls are famed for their dramatic style of playing and sexy image.

Jack White, who sang the theme song to the film with Alicia Keys, will also be making an appearance.

Bond’s Aston Martin DBS is expected to be at Leicester Square too.

One version of the car was infamously crashed into Lake Garda earlier this year in the first of a spate of incidents which led to claims that the film had been hit by ‘the curse of bond’.

People’s Premiere

The official premiere will be followed directly by a ‘public premiere’ at the Odeon West End on the other side of Leicester Square.

Lucky Bond fans who have bought tickets will be able to see the film two days before it goes on general release in the UK.

The event is being run as part of The Times 52nd London Film Festival.

It is the first time a Bond movie has featured in the line-up.

Reviews

Critics have so far given Quantum of Solace mixed reviews.

Cosmo Landesman, writing for The Sunday Times, dismissed the film as “$200m worth of bland crash-bang-wallop.”

Mark Kermode has also savaged it in his review on Radio 5 Live

Mark Kermode reviews Quantum of Solace

Others have praised it highly though.

Kermode’s sucessor at Radio 1, James King, described it as “A slam dunk…making a case for the the super spy’s best movie ever.”

Related links on this blog: Background: The Curse of Bond

By Helen Catt

helen.catt@my.westminster.ac.uk

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , | 1 Comment

Jonathan Ross & Russell Banned: Harrow Students Have Their Say

The Brand, Ross furore has taken a new turn going all the way to Westminster. Gordon Brown is to address what he has called “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in a press conference later today.

The controversy came about as a result of prank phone calls made by the duo to the voicemail of ‘Fawlty Towers’ actor Andrew Sachs on Brand’s Radio 2 programme.

During the message, Jonanthan Ross claimed that Russell Brand had slept with Sachs’ 23-year old granddaughter Georgina Baillie.

Georgina has admitted this to be true. She has also commented on the BBC’s poor editing judgement of the pre-recorded show,

“Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. They’ve shown an appalling lack of judgement.”

How would other radio editors have acted?

‘Dont Know?’ asked radio production student Matty Dellar his view. Matty told us he would have aborted the message before the airing, as there are just too many risks involved. He also said that it was foolish of Russell and Ross to even consider phoning the Fawlty Towers actor.

Robin Bamines, a radio pathway student at Westminster University on the Harrow Campus: “The whole thing was broadcast just ten days ago… it is only now that people have started complaining. I think they just want to get rid of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. The question is how they are going to go about resolving the issue and how it is going to get off the ground for them.”

The consensus amongst other Harrow students seems to be that the whole Russell and Ross issue has turned into a hysteria amongst the media, which has had a domino effect on key parliamentary figures and the BBC.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Live News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Snow Trick, or is it a Treat?

London’s October Snow.

As a blanket of snow covered London last night, it’s hard to believe that Halloween is just around the corner. The unusually cold weather for this time of year saw the first October snowfall in London since 1934.

Last Nights snowfall

Last Nights snowfall

According to John Hammond, from the Met Office, “since Monday, increasingly colder weather has been spreading south across the UK, with winds from the Arctic. Yesterday the very coldest air arrived in Southern England, with a mix of rain, sleet and snow falling in many areas”.

Students from The University of Westminster have mixed views on the usually joyous occasion of snowfall. Travelling to the Harrow Campus from outside the city saw vehicles covered with snow driving into the city. The icy roads have already caused accidents on the M40, resulting in the tragic death of one driver.

Delays
A number of students found that tube links to Northwick Park tube station were unusually slow this morning, although it is not certain whether last night’s snowfall was the cause. Dani, 20 from Neasden said “it took me 45 minutes to complete a journey that usually takes 15 minutes”.

Nicola, 24, from Harrow said “the snow was really thick late last night”, but Jo, 18, who lives on the Harrow campus said “most of it had melted by the time I’d got up this morning”.

Melting

Melting

Climate change
This unusual weather is especially shocking, as October began as the country was bathed in warm sunshine, with temperatures up to the mid twenties. Any hopes for an Indian summer have been well and truly dashed.

John Hammond said, “temperatures in the London area reached 22.9 c on 11th October this year. This highlights the wide variations in weather we can get in October – after all – it’s a time of the year when we expect seasonal transitions taking place”.

The cold spell looks brief, which is good news for Friday’s trick or treaters. The rest of the week shouldn’t be quite as chilly, but as John Hammond said, it could still “feel cold and raw up to and including the weekend”.

The Met Office insists that this early snowfall does not necessarily mean that we will see a white Christmas this year after all.

Carrian Jones

Photos courtesy of Carrian Jones

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Live News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Next year’s graduates will feel the sharp end of the credit crunch

Graduate jobs

Graduate jobs

Students finishing their studies this year won’t be affected by the credit crunch, but next year’s graduates are likely to feel the pinch, say industry experts.

As the annual round of recruitment fairs and events, known as ‘The Milkround’, swings into action there are a few notable absences from the glossy stalls.

Dresdner Kleinwort, Merrill Lynch and Allied Irish Bank are some of the big names who won’t be recruiting this year.

However, experts predict that the effects won’t really be felt until next year’s round of recruitment kicks in.

Graham Trickey, editor of Graduate Magazine, which is published by Prospects, agrees:

“The graduate jobs market on the whole has yet to feel the full impact of the credit crunch and recession…Many of these graduate schemes still seem to be recruiting as usual.”

“But”, he added,”student and graduate job hunting is likely to get a lot tougher next year, depending on how severe the recession turns out to be.”

Mike Barnard, a spokesman for graduate job site milkround.com, agrees.

He explains that many budgets for graduate schemes have already been signed off, some as long ago as April.

“This year’s graduates aren’t badly affected as companies will be filling a similar number of vacancies to other years.”

Winners

For some industries, he says, the credit crunch has actually boosted graduate recruitment.

Teaching has had something of a resurgence, with recruitment events being held at Canary Wharf in the wake of bank lay-offs.

IT and engineering could also benefit.

Barnard says that, traditionally, large banks have poached engineering and IT graduates.

However, with the banking sector looking so unpredictable, many are likely to look for jobs in the sectors they have trained in.

Fears

There are signs that students at the Harrow Campus at the University of Westminster are concerned about their prospects.

One second year marketer told Don’t Know? that he thinks “a degree won’t be enough” in the new financial climate.

Others from the creative schools are less worried.

A student from the Film & TV Production course said “Because I am studying film, it was always going to be difficult, but I am delusionally optimistic that things can be done with smaller budgets.”

Advice

It’s not all bad news for those who are looking to go into the traditional milkround jobs; they may just have to be more creative about how they get them.

Mike Barnard says that internships and placements are increasingly being used by firms as a way in, as in times of uncertainty, employers look for tried and trusted people.

His advice to future graduates is “Get out there and get some experience.”

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Live News | , | Leave a comment

Rubbish Facilities at Harrow Campus

Resident’s of Westminster University’s Harrow campus have noticed a distinct lack of recycling facilities on campus.

Although there are provisions for newspapers, more damaging materials such as glass and plastic seem to have been overlooked.

Students Opinion

Media Management student Elie Havroudaki said “a leading university like Westminster should make more of an effort. We could be doing so much more to help the environment”.

Many of the packaging that you find in a typical student’s kitchen is plastic, glass or cardboard. With all this going straight into the trashcan, is the university doing enough to promote recycling within the campus grounds?

Disagreements

However not everyone agrees with the idea of a stronger recycling policy.  Film and TV student Charlotte Medimuski told our reporter that “it’s not my responsibility to recycle. I’m here to study not waste my time sorting out my rubbish. Leave that to someone else”.

People and Planet‘, the student organisation that seeks to protect the environment, published their ‘Green League in July of this year, and the University of Westminster fell into the ‘did not sit exam’ category. The university said that the inability to even register on the league was due to an error in the administration.

Third year student Joys Mesiskli said “Westminster is a modern uni with modern courses. Why aren’t we among the top of the table? Everyone is worried about recycling and the environment, it’s a hot topic”.

The environmental policy of Westminster University Students Union states that waste management “is an area where it is vital to get saff and members feeling part of the process in reducing consumption and effective recycling”.

Many other universities across the country have been pioneers in the recycling field, such as Bristol University, which has an Energy and Environmental Unit on it’s campus, and regularly advertises the importance of the environment.

So the question is: if it has been proved possible by other universities, the students agree with the idea of better recycling facilities and the students union itself promotes the idea of better recycling, then why has nothing been done yet?

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Live News | , , , | Leave a comment

Update:Students delayed- is the snow to blame?

Students and commuters have been dalayed on the tubes this morning, which many people beleive is due t the unusually snowy conditions last night.

Reporters have been discussing this issue with students.

The Met Office have told us that temperatures for the rest of the week will be slightly warmer, with no real possibility of any more snow.

More to come at 3pm.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Live News | , , | Leave a comment