Sunday, July 27, 2008

Olympic Sized Problems

I'm not much of a sports kind of guy but I'll be paying attention to this olympics. I have a sneaky feeling that behind the touchy - feely, happy face tagline "One World, One Dream", we're about to see a exposition beset with problems that may cast a shadow over the sporting events. Even that slogan has a ring totalitarian conformism about it.

China is placing utmost importance on having the games showcase it's entry into the Big Leagues, this is it's debut onto the world stage so to speak. Since 1896 the modern olympics have been almost totally western extravaganzas and you can only wonder how that sat with 1/5 of the world's population. They didn't even send athletes to compete until 1932. When they were tagged to be the host back in 2001 the chinese were ecstatic but the rest of the world had lots of reservations, and their human rights concerns were just part of the equation. The games have been corrupt with politics since forever and nobody is under any illusions China won't try to take advantage of them to polish their image. They will. But what'll be extremely interesting is how they deal with all the problems that are rearing their ugly heads already, and competition hasn't even started.

* I think everybody was relieved to see the ugliest torch relay in history over and done with.

* Officials have been chirping all along that air quality was improving from all the drastic measures taken like moving and even shutting factories and forcing cars off the roads. The smog is getting worse every day and you couldn't even see the top half of NBA player Yao Ming when he walked into an amphitheatre today. The problem is so severe the IOC may even reschedule endurance events.
"The lack of visibility surprised one Mexican journalist who said: "For the first time in my life, I am in a place more polluted than Mexico City."

* Food safety. To say the Chinese are jittery about the severe rap they took last year when exports were found to be tainted almost every week is an understatement. One incident will destroy their reputation.

* In the frenzied run up to the games next month, the Chinese went on a huge construction binge, and in the process destroyed vast swathes of old neighborhoods called hutongs, traditional narrow alleys where, well, lots of people lived. Seems they looked a little backward-like. The million + forced evictions aren't the only displaced people. For months the government has been rounding up displaced farmers, Tibetans, human rights and environmental groups, Falun Gong, beggars and anybody else thought to be possibly troublesome. The extravaganza has created an army of pissed off opponents ripe for creating disruption.


* Just when they thought they had that algae problem licked in the Chinese city of Qingdao, strong winds have pushed the thick growth back in.

* Speaking of wind, the weather forecast over the course of the games looks downright shitty.
"During the 17-day Olympiad, Charko expects between five and seven days of persistent rainfall and a handful more days with scattered thunderstorms.
Weather delays can wreak havoc for organizers on tight event schedules, not to mention for athletes on rigorous eating, sleeping and training plans.
There is also a very real possibility the Olympic village will be hit with leftovers from typhoons that tend to make landfall south and east of Beijing

* The host nation spent tens of billions in preparation for this olympiad, but there will be blood over communications. Already the internet has slowed to a crawl and the armies of journalists haven't showed up yet. Authoritarian China will go head to head with the modern telecommunication world and you can bet the farm censorship will be a huge problem, which isn't going to please NBC who shelled out almost a cool billion for exclusive rights.


But they may have made a very shrewd investment, if not for broadcasting the athletes. The biggest competition just might be between over zealous censors and the broadcasters themselves, leading to some very watchable "events". NBC News president Steve Capus:
"If you're a journalist in 2008, you want to be in Beijing to watch how China handles hosting the these Olympic games," Capus said. "I think it's a fascinating story."
China promised a grand and glorious olympics and they've gone to great lengths to put on the best show they could and cooporate with foreign media. With the vast gulf between cultures those cheery predictions might not be based in reality on the ground, adding more glitches to the above list.
And yet one more possible problem for the Chinese, totally my assumption, yanked straight out of my butt. China is banking on a successful lollapalooza to showcase itself as a world player but there may be forces who are interested in preventing that from happening. Some things may not go so well because those forces may work behind the scenes to tarnish the enterprise, sort of remove a little luster from their efforts.

But nothing can detract from the glory of Panda Dung Souvenirs.



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