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.
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.Intimidation
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.Murder/Suicide
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.
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 elsewhereOne 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.
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?