I don’t remember ever being so excited about the Olympics. I don’t know if it’s because there was so much said about China or because I’m so close to China or because really there was something fantastic about these Games but I was super-excited. *
And the opening ceremony did not disappoint. I have never seen an Olympics spectacle like this one. Every single performance was spellbinding and a showcase of Chinese culture down the ages. The perfect choreography might have seemed to a bit like Krakauer’s The Mass Ornament, but maybe we should find in this uniformity something to admire. Constant rebellion – although my mode of choice – is also uniformity you know.
But back to the opening ceremony. I even surprised myself by watching every single country come out and not getting bored. I liked the idea of the order of the countries being in Mandarin so that countries whose names start with letters at the tail end of the English alphabet have the novel experience of coming out first. I loved the mystery leadning up to who would light the torch and the simple choice of the first man to win China a gold in its very first Olympics in 1984 and the way the torch was lit. I loved the mad Chinese crowd demonstrating to the world that they are not all rigid formal communist boors.
I now find myself watching everything from shooting to cycling with avid interest. I am of course addicted to swimming and gymnastics and was thrilled that these telecast at convenient times on Sunday. V is getting a little bored but hey! it’s the Olympics. And those swimmer guys are cute!
I almost had a heart attack in excitement when South Korean Park Tae-hwan won the 400 m freestyle. The irony was I thought it was just a heat and belatedly realised it was the final. So cool for him.
Ok now back to the gymnastics.
*Probably a combination of all three. The never-ending Western-biased criticism of Beijing’s preparations for the Games irritated me no end. I don’t think I remember such controversy over the preparations in previous Games. It seems to me that it’s just becuase it’s China and at some level, the West is scared about the rising power of a country that does not follow a system they understand.
Having actually been to China I refuse to accept the views of those who have not, or who have simply interacted at the levels of hallowed diplomatic cirles. I have interacted with people in China from the poorest dumpling guy to the CEOs of Chinese banks with their inevitable bureaucracy and I think that only after this kind of people to people interaction can anyone deign to comment.
There are real people in China, with pride in their country and hurt at the way the world is reacting to their preparations. These are people who are unfailing curious and polite to foreigners and just generally fun. I compare people in the mainland to people in Hong Kong, and although the former may be loud and push more in the subway, they are more real than their Western-influenced plasticized versions out here.
Yes it is true that there are human rights violations in China but there are human rights violations in Iraq and noone called for the US being banned from the Games. There are human rights violations on a massive scale in India too.
Nevertheless, I think Tibetans and whoever else, has the right to protest and we should continue to give them our ear. But the real victories are won quietly, often diplomatically, and all this brouhaha is only going to set back things.
Instead of harping on China, people might do better to watch out for Russia who has seized the opportunity provided by the world’s leaders being at the Olympics to push its defence of South Ossetia to invasion of Georgia.