Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jolly decent of the Chinese

A light hearted look at recent events surrounding the Olympic torch relay from today's FT:

Still want Tibet on the torch relay?
By Robert Shrimsley
Published: April 10 2008 03:00 Last updated: April 10 2008 03:00

Oh, the horror. Our own Lord Coe, thrice shoved aside by those beastly Chinese as if they didn't even know who he was. Shocked and shaken, he pronounced them "horrible".

Worse was to come. The rotters even roughly manhandled a Blue Peter presenter carrying the flaming Olympic torch aloft. A Blue Peter presenter; frankly that's only one notch above spitting on Vera Lynn.

And there on the streets of London and Paris an unsmiling phalanx of Chinese security men, a troop of jogging cybermen, dealt with anyone in their way, be they protesters, ermined Olympians or inanely grinning premiers. It makes you think, doesn't it. I mean, crikey, if they can treat Seb Coe like that, you just wonder what they could do in Tibet.

One can imagine the hand-wringing on the International Olympic Committee as the torch relay - a tradition dating all the way back to the noble Nazis - is tainted, nay besmirched, by the stain of political protest. The great Goebbels - inventor of the modern torch relay - must be turning in his grave. Mournful are the wails of the Hellenic maidens who attend the ceremonial kindling of the torch. Now the relay may be cut short for future games lest the Olympic spirit be dented - and future sponsorship deals endangered. It's not that the IOC regrets its gift of the Olympics to Beijing in the first place, you understand, just all this fuss now.

Meanwhile, in the UK and France, the gorge is rising against the "horrible" Chinese paramilitaries who inflicted such indignities on the Blessed Seb. Not even Steve Ovett did that. Questions will be asked in the House.

Well, what did people expect when control of the Olympics was handed to China? China is not a country that mucks around with such things. If a torch needs protecting, it doesn't entrust the task to a troupe from the National Ballet, pirouetting along the Embankment. It goes out and gets a team that would give Madonna's bodyguards a run for their money. If it is worried about protests, it locks up every potential troublemaker. This is what China does.

On the other hand, it was jolly decent of the Chinese to launch a global, rolling roadshow to help draw attention to the plight of Tibet. Richard Gere could never have done it all on his own.

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