Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beijing 2008: Bombs, Earthquakes, Typhoons, Smog, Protests and a bit of sport too......

The 2008 Olympics were always destined for controversy.

The location, a capital of a nation with a brutal communist past that has metamorphosed into a capitalist based superpower without apparent need for apologies or political freedom, raises concerns amongst many.

However, something I have become increasingly aware of over the last few months is these concerns are far from universal. Many are happy to let bygones (the deaths of 70 million to name one bygone) be bygones. Firstly the present generation of Chinese are immensely proud of hosting the Games and I guess this is something that is not wrong in itself. Secondly the International Olympic Committee and their allies want the Games to succeed and anything that threatens that are nothing but "inconvenient truths". Thirdly the cocktail of apathy and ignorance that seems to stupefy most of us, most of the time is not to be under-estimated. While some know that "bad things happened in China", some do not and many more do not want to be troubled by such thoughts anyway. Let not the deaths of tens of millions in the last 60 years get in the way of a good sporting event today !

While bushy haired Serbs get carted off to the Hague to face "justice" over a civil war in where horrors were committed by all sides, no Chinese will ever face the same "justice" (however that is defined) for the misdeeds inflicted on the Citizens of the People's Republic of China. China is just too rich, powerful and sensitive to bother with Debating Society notions of human rights abuses, torture and the rest.

So the Olympics are going ahead. Yet the voices of freedom will not be completely silenced. The earth itself seems to be protesting with an earthquake in Sichuan yesterday and typhoons in Hong Kong and Macau today. The smog of Beijing has returned for now until the chemical marvels of cloud seeding kick in again. Today protests reached Beijing. Two crazy but brave Brits and two crazy but brave Americans unfurled a "Free Tibet" banner outside the Birds Nest stadium. A far more nasty and sinister protest is surfacing in the wild west of China with Muslim Turkic brutally murdering 16 policemen.

The Olympics should on balance however "pass off" ok. There are 100,000 soldiers said to be on stand by in Beijing with anti-aircraft weaponry protecting all the key sites. Sometime in the next few weeks some sport will happen too, some medals will be won and some pleasure shared.

Let not all of us, whether watching or not, forget all that has gone before and all that is still to come in this vast and fascinating country of China.


Rositta said...

Luis, I for one will not watch the Olympics this time around. Your are right about the apathy of the world although now for a little while they will care. When it's all over it goes back into obscurity. I share your thought that the earth is protesting although too gently in my mind...ciao

Luis said...

I'm with you on this Rositta. I don't plan on tuning in. The whole event has too much "baggage" for my liking.

James said...

Not ignoring the more serious quibbles, but can people PLEASE stop referring to 'the spectacular opening ceremony'. Do the BBC have to say this every time there's an Olympics or World Cup? And I heard Ming Campbell (infuriatingly still looked on as a foreign affairs 'expert') using it too. Perhaps next time round, we can hope for the Queen just to cut a ribbon, perhaps followed by Prince Philip saying something controversial if there's too much ethnic dancing going on!

Luis said...


Yes I agree entirely. This is all the more so now that we learn that half of it was faked anyway- whether computer special effects or little girls miming while their "uglier" friend does the singing.

A ribbon cutting would be a refreshing response to the competition for ever more elaborate "ceremonies".