Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympics News Negativity

After watching the Opening Ceremonies last week we were feeling very proud and happy for China. The opening ceremonies were an amazing accomplishment and they really were the coming out ceremonies for the Chinese people signifying that they have arrived.

Even though the Olympics are a sporting event politics always seems to creep its way in. I usually try to stay away from controversial topics on this blog but some of the articles I have been reading about the the games and Opening Ceremonies have been bothering me a bit. Mostly what bothers me is how the western media seems to always put a negative spin on most anything related to China.

The Fake Fireworks

If you watched the opening ceremony there was a flyover from Tiananmen Square to the Olympic Stadium with fireworks signifying the footsteps. It was stated in the broadcast that it was a cinematic device. It was pretty easy to tell that it was computer generated. Physically I don't think you could have filmed a sequence like that (not to mention logistical and safety concerns) so I don't know why such a big deal is being made of it. Many of our American movies and sporting events use animation for things that are too difficult to film. It was pretty obvious to me that it was CGI, not sure why the media is making it seem like they were trying to pull one over on us.

Lip Syncing

During the opening ceremonies it was pretty apparent that the cute little girl singing Ode to the Motherland was lip syncing. This is pretty common practice in large scale performances so we didn't give it a second thought. We have since learned that it was actually another little girl's voice that she was lip syncing over. I have heard two different spins on this story. One that he little girl's voice was not strong enough so the decided to use the vocals of another girl. Another spin was that the singer whose voice was used was not deemed cute enough by officials so the only used her voice. When reading this it reminded me a bit of our trip to China when one of our guides told us of her dreams to be a singer while in school but she was told that she could not be a singer because she had tiger(crooked) teeth and freckles. Much like the US, China puts a premium on beauty. I can remember not too long ago when a group called Milli Vanilli won a Grammy Award for a song they didn't sing. They are simply learning from the US entertainment industry.


One of the commentators for the opening ceremonies mentioned that the drummers were told to smile more during their performance as they were looking too intimidating. I have read articles about the 2008 drummers and other performers looking like soldiers. Then there was the skaters all circling the globe which I saw as the world coming together in harmony, peace and unity. Apparently it was seen a bit differently by some as a statement that China is ready to conquer the world. I think some people are still stuck in the old cold war mentality. Maybe I am just biased but I saw nothing intimidating at all, just a beautiful ceremony.


Sadly an American tourist was killed by a Chinese citizen over the weekend. The killer committed suicide so we will probably never know what really happened but it seems the guy may have been depressed and just snapped and attacked the nearest person. There were some that thought it may be an act of terrorism. Although domestic terrorists in China could care less about Americans, they are more focused on government human rights issues. There was also some initial speculation that the victim was targeted because he was the father of a US athlete or the murder was a statement to foreigners coming into China. This was simply a tragic random act of violence. I am going to venture a guess that incidents like this happen a lot less frequently in China than they do in the US given China's low crime rate.

Human Rights

It is no secret that China's human rights record is not very good. The media and many human rights groups have used the Olympics to remind us of China's history rather than focus on the positives. The big issues that seem to be brought up lately are the recent crackdown in Tibet, the lack of freedom of religion and the one-child policy. China has come a long way in the past 50 years but still has quite a ways to go. The general perception of the one child policy in China is that it is necessary, Chinese citizens know that there is a population issue that if not kept in control would cause greater issues. We did not bring up politics while in China but I did not get the sense that the people we did talk to were ready to revolt, they seem to realize that change takes time and are pretty content just living their lives. The one area we did notice the differences in our cultures was with censorship. Many websites in China are blocked including blogspot. But we, as well as I am sure many Chinese, found ways around it.

Money would be better spent elsewhere

One of the complaints we have heard about the Olympics is "wouldn't it have been better to spend the money helping their poor people". The opening ceremonies cost around $300 Billion and it is estimated that the total operating costs of the games will cost around $2.6 billion. That money probably would have been better used to feed the poor and orphans. But every country has poor and homeless people and that does not keep them from the opportunity of hosting the Olympic Games. I think China takes the view that this money is being spent in country providing jobs to people which overall will make life better for many Chinese. While we were in Beijing you could not turn around without seeing a construction crane for a new high rise being constructed. The beautification projects were well underway. Along the sides of every major highway there were flowers growing or in the process of being planted. It was pretty amazing, I have never seen anything like it here in the US. Hundreds of thousands of people are being employed because of these Olympic projects so I think an argument can be made that the money is going back to its citizens.

Underage Gymnasts

Another of the recent controversies is the charge that some of the gymnasts on the Chinese team are under 16 which is against the rules. This seemed to hit the press this week when the US girls' team only won the silver medal. I really don't know what the advantages are of being younger in gymnastics competition but it probably has to do with being lighter and easier to jump and tumble. The Chinese officials have provided passports to confirm that the girls are 16, but I guess it is possible that they could have been faked. I would think that if it was suspected that the girls were underage that would have been investigated before the competition. The US team was beaten by a better team, by continuing to complain about the ages after the fact just seems like being a sore loser. They won the silver, nothing wrong with that.

Spanish Basketball team

The last item that I wanted to bring up is the advertisement in a Spanish newspaper where their basketball team is shown pulling their eyes into a slanted position to mock the Chinese. A team spokesman has since come forward to say that it was an affectionate gesture and the meant no offense. I don't understand how this ad got through editors without anyone thinking that it could be offensive. Fortunately the media seems to have gotten it right with this one and is roasting the team for their bad judgement. This is something I would expect an elementary school kid to do toward an Asian kid on a playground. Not adults representing their country in the Olympic games. Sadly it is things like this that our daughters will have to deal with as they grow up. How can we expect children to respect other cultures when they see behavior like this from adults?


Caroline said...

Great post. Three cheers!

TJC said...

I guess I can understand your view of China, being that you adopted your daughter from there. So learning about the culture is important for you. You touched on some very serious subjects in a very casual way.

Human rights issues are very huge in China, and your daughter would have never been yours if China didnt devalue women. Women's rights in China are something that needs some serious work.

The Chinese gymnasts are underage, its not a complaint, its fact. The fact that athletes across the world train for these games, it is not fair when countries cheat.

Tibet, did you forget about Tibet? How can you casually assume that there is no issue there?

China had to put on a big show and its obvious they wanted the World to see them differently. They did put on an entertaining show, but that doesnt mean its not still a Communist Country.

I appreciate your point of view, but really for the love of your daughter, you should be glad you got her out of there. She might have issues growing up with people making fun just like in the basketball team picture, but for her to be free and have rights, that is priceless.

Her future is brighter than it ever would have been if she had stayed.

I dont know you personally, but your romanticized view of China was quite hard to read.

Two Pearls / New England H Family said...

A great post, Steve. I, too, have a "romanticized" view of China and cannot wait to visit there again. I remember feeling the same way after visiting Moscow about 15 years ago. And the people I met in Moscow and China are just like you and I, decent individuals who live in their country with pride, despite what their governments do or don't do or what they do or don't agree with...just as I'm proud of my country despite the things that I learn about our government or leaders sometimes.

Steve and Jen said...


Since you chose to comment anonymously I have no idea who you are or if you have some agenda against China. But since you are the first person to post a crtitical comment I will respond.

I do have a romanticised view of China. It is the land of my daughter's birth and I plan to travel back as often as possible in the upcoming years. We love China flaws and all just as we love the US despite its flaws.

If you read my post I was discussing the negative bias that the media seems to have for everything China in the past few weeks. I did mention Tibet in my post and I will reiterate that China still has a long way to go regarding human rights.

But as I hope you can understand it would not be appropriate nor productive for me to rail against China on an adoption blog.

I also don't appreciate your view that we are lucky to have gotten our daughter out of China. Most adoptive parents abhor the view that we are saving our children from big bad communist China. We will be forever grateful to China for the precious gift that they have given us.

Lastly if my blog is so difficult for you to read you should simply not read it. It is obviously not written for you.

Nancy said...

I thought your post was well written, and I agree with your views as well. As parents to two precious little daughters from China, I feel a love for China as well as the United States. B.T.W., your sweet Grace is adorable!

Melinda said...

Very well said, Steve!