Tsinghua divers make a splash

In a desperate, last-bid attempt to offset the destruction inflicted on my body by Beijing air, I swim two or three times a week. In this respect, my move from Beida to Tsinghua campus was welcome: the latter’s swimming pool is where China’s Olympic athletes trained, and I enjoy it’s palacial feel, unnecessarily big clock and actually hot showers.

Sectioned off a the other end from the pool is a diving area, including some terrifyingly high platforms – off which terrifyingly young Olympic divers of the future jump, during their daily training. So my pitiful doggy paddle is to the sound of the (non)splash of 5-year olds hitting the water after perfectly executed backwards-double-tuck-twist-turns.

I took my camera in last time, thinking of sharing this impressive sight with you. But the powers that be thought otherwise: as soon as I took the lens cap off, a friendly if insistent old man emerged from his poolside office to mumble ‘eh! … eh! … eh!’ at me, putting his hand in front of the lens. “You can’t take photos here”, he frowned.

I asked to see where this rule was written down, whereupon he led me out the back-door of his office and down the corridor. I gave up after the third turning when I realised he was likely taking me to the administrative centre of Tsinghua in my swimming trunks, but I’ll take his enthusiasm as a sign that this rule really is written down.

Which begs the question: why is it forbidden to document diving practice? Is it another ‘state secret’? Are these kids in fact simulating dive bombing, for military application? Or did this man simply fear I was going to post a mocking video online with the caption “look at that 5-year-old’s lame third somersault – China sucks ass!”.*

As a petty act of rebellion, I went back later on, with my camera hidden under my swimming cap, and took this quick video before the man could stop me. Rage against the machine! These are older divers, but that first jump still scares me silly:


* pretty much every foreigner in China has a story about being stopped from taking a picture somewhere or other – it seems ingrained into the psyche of the Chinese security guard that every foreign devil with a camera wants to humiliate China on YouTube.


  1. Well, I feel naive. I think that’s exactly why there’s this rule, Sue – and it would be just the same in England, no doubt. I should have guessed that. Way to 丢面子!

  2. Don’t know Tsinghua’s reason for not allowing photo in swimming pool. A couple of years ago in Chengdu, there is no problem for taking photo and video of my nephew’s swimming training session.

    Mind you, many places if not all in England, it is not allowed to take photo in swimming pool, especially with children in it. We won’t even allowed to take a photo for our daughter’s birthday party in the local swimming pool.

    Sad really. Everyone being suspected as a pervert just because a very small minority of bad people.

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