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Jul 17

Why the Beijing Olympics are already a success

Written by Buxi on Thursday, July 17th, 2008 at 6:34 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, General, News | Tags:,
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Despite all of the predictions of doom and concern, I believe the Olympics are already a success.  The WSJ reports world and business leaders are crowding China’s red carpet in an unprecedented way:

Lured by the growing importance of the Chinese market and the chance to help Beijing celebrate its biggest international event yet, the number of chief executives planning to attend the Beijing Games is likely to rival the number at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which often attracts more than 1,000 business leaders.

… George W. Bush will be the first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympic Games opening ceremony on foreign soil. Despite controversy over some of China’s policies — as seen in the demonstrations during the recent Olympic-torch run — the number of heads of state planning to attend the opening ceremony is roughly double the number who attended the opening of the Athens Games four years ago.”

After being fixated on potential boycotts by heads of state for 4 months, only now am I realizing how remarkable it is that so many heads of state were consider coming at all.

No matter how many “T” hand-signals are made, no matter how blue the sky is, no matter how many streakers rush the field, no matter how many protests happen on Tiananmen, and no matter if Liu Xiang doesn’t win the gold… we are finally ready to answer (in style) the question first posed exactly 100 years ago, when a Qingdao youth magazine asked the then-feeble Chinese nation: “When will China host its first Olympics?” (三问中国)

The ultimate purpose of the Beijing Olympics is to highlight and celebrate China’s arrival on the international stage.  So, let’s enjoy the moment.


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40 Responses to “Why the Beijing Olympics are already a success”

  1. Buxi Says:

    A couple of Canadian newspapers are calling on Harper to attend the Opening Ceremony. He insists he’s staying home; probably a good thing, don’t need any more traffic problems.

  2. Nimrod Says:

    It’s remarkable that such a simple task has taken so long. These days people are asking when will China produce its first Nobel prize winner, hopefully it won’t take 100 years.

  3. vadaga Says:

    Great. I look forward to ‘enjoying’ the Olympics just as I have enjoyed the last few, at the beach and without a television.

  4. Charlie Says:

    So, your definition of the success of an event is how many political and business leaders attend? Most important state funerals (and the better royal weddings) are, therefore, very successful. I am not prepared to offer criteria that should be used to determine the success of the Olympics, but (call me naive) I have to think the success of the events and care of the athletes should factor in the equation somehow.

  5. Netizen Says:

    I thought Beijing Olympics is always going to be a success.

    The supposed absence of some “Western leaders” is not that of world leaders. That’s always the deceit of the Western media.

    When they talked about “world’s” oppionions, it really meant a few western’s countries’ oppionions. That’s a how good PR machine works. Sometimes people need to cut through the clutter and see the real picture.

    Only that, you now see the awkardness of being Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper and Gordon Brown when real world leaders, tens of thems, gather in Beijing on August 8.

  6. zuiweng Says:

    @Nimrod

    Will this appease the people a little bit?

    高行健 (Literature 2000)
    崔琦 (Physics 1998)
    杨振宁 (Physics 1957)
    李政道 (Physics 1957)

    Congatulations!

  7. BMY Says:

    I guess Nimrod talks about “mainland China”

  8. vadaga Says:

    @6,7 Excellent, maybe now we can get a discussion going about the definition of what constitutes a ‘real Chinese nobel prize’ =D

  9. pug_ster Says:

    They don’t need Harper in Beijing as much as they need Sarkozy.

  10. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Zuiweng,

    “Will this appease the people a little bit?

    高行健 (Literature 2000)
    崔琦 (Physics 1998)
    杨振宁 (Physics 1957)
    李政道 (Physics 1957)

    Congatulations!”

    Hold your congratulations Zuiweng.

    高行健 is a clown. The only review on him I remember is that he “write about celibate peasants’ sexual fantasy (农民光棍的性幻想)。” Forgive my words. I am just qouting literature review from legitimate and respectable literary magazines.

    None of the other three (physicists) is a product of the PRC, which is the only China I identify with.

  11. MutantJedi Says:

    Harper is a …. It’s nice that he likes cats.

  12. DJ Says:

    I don’t want to judge 高行健’s work because I have never read any. But I strongly perceived back then that the Nobel prize was awarded to him primarily as an explicit act against China. I suppose his declaration in Europe in 1990 never to return to a freedom/justice lacking China helped.

  13. Buxi Says:

    @Charlie,

    So, your definition of the success of an event is how many political and business leaders attend?

    It depends on the event, obviously. Some athletes define “success” just by qualifying for the Olympics, and some athletes define success as winning a gold.

    101 years ago, China was pathetically removed from the world mainstream… the few Chinese able to visit the outside world (in this case Chinese-American Christians) brought back news of a world sporting event in London. They posed three questions to the Chinese nation:

    1) when will China send its first athlete to the Olympics? Answer: In 1932, sprinter Liu Changchun was the first Chinese athlete to compete, attending the Los Angeles Olympics. As he departed Shanghai, they said this:

    Our country is sending our hero to the worlds sporting event, the first time in the history of our country; there is much meaning in this. With all earnestness today, we hand our banners to our hero and hope that his spirit of struggle will be put to use of the athletic fields of the Los Angeles Olympics. There is no greater glory than flying the flag of the Republic of China before the other nations of the world.

    When he arrived in Los Angeles to a parade through Chinatown, an American reporter asked him for a photo:

    The American reporter showed that he wanted to raise both of my arms. I was about to raise my arms over my heads, but felt such a position felt like I was surrendering, and put them down again. The reporter explained to my friend Liu Xuesong that raising my arms above my head, represents that I’m using both hands to hold up the role of being the sole representative for 400 million Chinese. Only then did I raise both hands up high, posing for the picture.

    2) When will China send its first team to the Olympics?
    3) When will China host the Olympics?

    The opportunity to answer that question, with the worlds political and business elite in attendance… yes, I consider that a success.

  14. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    DJ,
    “I don’t want to judge 高行健’s work because I have never read any. But I strongly perceived back then that the Nobel prize was awarded to him primarily as an explicit act against China.”

    It is an insult to Chinese literature and the Chinese literary public.

  15. FOARP Says:

    Okay, so the Nobel prize commission is now engaged in an anti-China plot designed to insult Chinese culture . . . .

    Actually, that’s a good idea for a book!

  16. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen – Gordon Brown is going to be at the closing ceremony, he is not ‘boycotting’ the opening event, but just giving it a miss, as I’m sure the Chinese president will most likely give the opening ceremony in London in 2012 a miss. Gordon Brown has had plenty of opportunities to meet with world leaders this year – in Davos, at the G8 summit, at EU events and so forth. It is a pity for China that its government’s record on human rights bars its president from attending the same range of events.

  17. zuiweng Says:

    @DJ and Bianxiangbianqiao, re. Gao Xingjian

    Would I have preferred Qian Zhongshu, Shen Congwen or Zhao Zhenkai as first Chinese to win the Nobel Prize for literature? Sure thing, but Stockholm didn’t call to ask my opinion. (The bastards!)

    Consider this: The last three German-language laureates (Elfriede Jelinek 2004, Günter Grass 1999 and Heinrich Böll 1972) : all of them have at some time or other managed to irritate or disgust a sizable portion of the media / population / readership in Austria and Germany – I for one would rather chew a roll of tin-foil than have to plow again through the turgid tweedy prose of H. Böll – but from this to ejecting them from their culture / nation is quite a step. Do you want to take it?

    As for the three physicists: We can all be proud to belong to the same species as them, so I won’t go looking for a “Made in PRC” stamp.

  18. Buxi Says:

    @FOARP,

    It is a pity for China that its government’s record on human rights bars its president from attending the same range of events.

    Huh?! What in the world?

    I personally admire the Chinese physicists who won the Nobel prize. My wife is a ROC citizen, and the only way my daughter is getting a Chinese passport is by claiming to be a ROC citizen… so, therefore, I identify with the ROC also. The only one I’m tempted to disqualify on political grounds is 李遠哲.

    What about the other Chinese Nobel prize winner (as someone reminded me on this blog months ago): 达赖喇嘛。

  19. Opersai Says:

    Just to clarify though, Stephen Harper declared from right of the beginning that he is not boycotting. The absence is a result of conflict in schedule. I guess he will enjoy his solitude then.

  20. Karma Says:

    @bianxiangbianqiao

    高行健 is a clown. The only review on him I remember is that he “write about celibate peasants’ sexual fantasy (农民光棍的性幻想)。” Forgive my words. I am just qouting literature review from legitimate and respectable literary magazines.

    None of the other three (physicists) is a product of the PRC, which is the only China I identify with.

    The West is facinated by sex/sexual freedom: in the U.S. – a course in Constitutional Law often include discussions of explicit sex.

    As for PRC being the only China … I can understand where you are coming from – and I agree PRC is the only legitimate China in today’s geopolitical landscape… but I can China is also much bigger than the PRC. Long after the PRC is gone (eventually, every dynasty ends), China will still be around – thriving and growing…

  21. FOARP Says:

    @Karma – Once again, I do not think that it is only westerners who prefer sexual freedom to the previous situation, and a review of the films produced by Chinese directors does not reveal any lack of fascination in the subject of sex.

    One of these days you must find someone to write a piece on the emerging gay scene in China, of which Nanjing is (so I’m told) something of a hotspot.

  22. Netizen Says:

    Gao Xingjian, where is he now? Now you know how good he was. Not much.

  23. Blairgh Says:

    @FOARP #15
    Not as a plot designed to insult China. Awarding the prize to him was a obvious protest to the Chinese government and the authoritarian system which insulted Chinese people as a side-effect. The one Chinese person that won a literary Nobel prize was such a crappy writer which suggests that he is the best that China can offer and all other writers are worse than him. I find that very insulting. There are tons more Chinese writers who wrote more meaningful than peasant fantasizing about sex. Stop twisting the meaning of people’s words to something ridiculous to win arguments.

  24. Buxi Says:

    @FOARP #21,

    I’m going to agree with Blairgh here. You seem rather into scoring points rather than participating in discussion, today.

    Karma didn’t say or imply that “only westerners prefer sexual freedom”. What he said is that the West is fascinated by the topic of sex and sexual freedom, perhaps because today’s “average Westerner” in a position of power was a flower-child caught up in their own sexual revolution 40 years ago.

    While there *has* clearly been a mini-sexual revolution in China over the last 30 years (people laugh about the harsh crack-down against “perverts” in the 1983 Strike Hard campaign), it’s not the kind of thing that captures our attention as much as it seems to capture the attention of many reporters in the West. Of all the changes in Chinese society, the ways that we have sex doesn’t really make the top 10 list of “notable” stuff.

    What’s the name of the girl blogger who was keeping track of her sexual exploits? She was played up in many Western discussions as if she was representative of a whole new generation. Incredibly exaggerated. I think the reaction to “chinabounder” is representative of how conservative things still remain, when compared to the West.

    That said, I’ll open up a thread on gays in China in a little bit.

  25. Smith Says:

    china will arrive international stage…
    But with which image ?
    Maybe the one of a country who oppress his minority (at least in T.)
    And the one who is totally under police control (foreigners will have a not accurate view if they think in daily life there is as much police control as there is now in Beijing) but whatever, It is maybe not a so good image.

  26. AC Says:

    @Buxi

    Her name is 木子美 I think.

    @Smith

    Don’t worry, China’s image is better than the US right now. Maybe the Western media haven’t tried hard enough.

  27. MutantJedi Says:

    About the success of the Olympics… (Perhaps I’ll be able to join in on the Chinese literature debate in a few years… :))

    My excitement for the games comes from knowing other people who are excited or somehow involved. Luan Jujie from Edmonton will be there for Canadian Fencing – this is doubly exciting because she connects both China and Canada. I know people who are involved with the Chinese Tennis team. And I know people who are going to be volunteering in Beijing – very exciting. For these people, success is playing well and fairly, and helping make the games go without a hitch. I expect the games will be a success for them.

    Politically… I am glad March is months ago. The politicians have had their opportunity to posture. But political success can only be called at the end of the games. A good opening ceremony can be tainted by a Chinese over-reaction to things like a “T” hand-signal during the games. The Western media will be looking to pounce on any sort of reaction. I’m hoping the government doesn’t embarrass themselves in effort to avoid embarrassment.

    Economically… At the best of times the net economic benefit to the host country/state/province is dubious. Budgets are often blown to the moon. Quebec is still paying, even after the original debt is paid off, for its Olympic white elephant. In Beijing, the effort to have an embarrassment free games is not translating into more tourists. How extensive will the impact be? You ask anybody who has an interest in China about visiting there over the Olympics and you’ll hear about visa problems. What the real visa story is doesn’t really matter. Right now, the perception is that business and tourists are not really welcomed. How long will this perception last? What will the impact be on the tourism industry in China? What will the internal political fallout be?

    I’m going to be curious about the internal politics of the post games. Right now, nobody is going to complain too much – national pride is at stake. But later, when the books for the quarter are done, when people compare what they made versus what they hoped to make… I’m expecting to hear some criticism.

    But… aside from all that. I’m cheering that the Chinese Tennis team gets gold, the Canadian Fencing team gets gold, and my friends volunteering during the games have a great time.

  28. Buxi Says:

    @MutantJedi,

    As always, thanks for your very thoughtful and endearing comments.

    In Beijing, the effort to have an embarrassment free games is not translating into more tourists. How extensive will the impact be?

    I personally don’t think it’s “a big deal”, speaking as someone who doesn’t rely on tourist dollars for income… I think the vast majority of these projects are a part of China’s on-going urbanization process. All of these airports, subways, roads, homes, and even Olympics facilities *will* get used even if not a single foreigner lands in Beijing this year.

    I don’t know if you realize the scale of the National Games in China, but let’s put it this way: it’s a popular, very competitive sporting event for 1.3 billion people. In other words… we can always use more sports facilities, not less. Wait until we have more of a popular professional sports industry, which *will* happen.

    I mentioned this earlier in a different post, I think. I remember in ’99, for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, Beijing was also subject to a similar building boom and clean-up. A lot of money was spent, a lot of streets were scrubbed, and a lot of new buildings/infrastructure was built. And I really don’t think it was wasted, because it pushed Beijing (and eventually other Chinese cities) forward into the next phase of development.

    I mean, all of these campaigns about not spitting and getting in line… that’s good for us, not just for the foreigners.

  29. Fencer Says:

    KMT chairman prepared to miss Olympics over Taiwan’s name

    ‘… The ruling Kuomintang secretary-general called upon China to respect the convention of referring to the Taiwanese team as “Chinese Taipei” at the Olympics. Lately, the state-run Chinese media have been referring the Taiwanese team as “Zhongguo, Taipei”, meaning “Taipei, China”, a name that suggests Taiwan is a part of China.’

    http://english.rti.org.tw/Content/GetSingleNews.aspx?ContentID=61665

  30. Opersai Says:

    @Buxi, FOARP

    Regarding gay, lesbian in China. There had been a surge of popularity in gay novels in popular fictions on Chinese internet. http://www.jjwxc.net/bl.htm is one of such place where hundreds of novels on such topic are published on net. Awkwardly, most writers and readers are females.

    What effect do you guys think this will have on homosexual in China? Will this translate to more tolerance toward homosexual in Chinese society? I’ll look forward to specific topic on homosexual in China. I hope society will become more tolerant toward such group.

  31. Buxi Says:

    @Fencer,

    Not sure what’s going on with Taiwanese domestic politics. Beijing has already said numerous times that the Taiwanese delegation will be referred to as “zhonghua taibei” in all official contexts, but there wouldn’t be a blanket ban on “zhongguo taibei” being used elsewhere.

    I don’t see how that’s unreasonable, and what else these people want.

    Beijing hasn’t, for example, insisted that all Taiwanese media refer to the mainland as dalu instead of zhongguo.

  32. totochi Says:

    “None of the other three (physicists) is a product of the PRC, which is the only China I identify with.”

    Maybe I haven’t followed this blog enough but WTF does this mean? There’s no China before 1949? Millions of Chinese people living outside of mainland China are not Chinese?

  33. FOARP Says:

    @Totochi – Wikipedia has a wonderful little article on Chinese history you might want to look at – look at ROC history for starters.

  34. totochi Says:

    @FOARP – Thanks, I think. I know the recent history of China (Qing/ROC/PRC) pretty well. I was more interested in the political bias of the commenter. Maybe I should have made statements instead of questions.

    For example, Yuan Tseh Lee won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. He was born in Taiwan in 1936 and received his PhD from UC Berkeley. Does bxbq consider that prize for China (probably not)? Taiwan? USA? Japan (since Taiwan was under Japanese occupation in 1936)? There’s no sense of pride that a Chinese person won?

    Just trying to find some consistency here: China = PRC or China = PRC + Hong Kong + Macao + Taiwan. Like someone else commented, China and being Chinese is much bigger than the CCP/PRC.

  35. Buxi Says:

    @totochi,

    Just trying to find some consistency here: China = PRC or China = PRC + Hong Kong + Macao + Taiwan. Like someone else commented, China and being Chinese is much bigger than the CCP/PRC.

    I agree with you fully on that last line. We have to accept that there are some PRC citizens (and ROC citizens) who don’t identify with “other definitions” of China. But I think this is a minority, and I don’t share their mentality. Sun Zhongshan wasn’t PRC Chinese, either.

    I joked above I might disqualify Lee Yuan-Tseh just because he supported Chen Shuibian (twice!), but more seriously, I do take pride in his accomplishments, and the accomplishments of all other Chinese.

  36. Otto Kerner Says:

    “The ultimate purpose of the Beijing Olympics is to highlight and celebrate China’s arrival on the international stage.” Fine, but this is incompatible with the view that the Olympics should not be politicised by protestors, etc. It was political to begin with.

    I’m not necessarily referring to Buxi in particular, who I don’t recall to have expressed this view. But those who do hold both of these opinions are engaged in hypocrisy.

  37. Buxi Says:

    @Otto,

    I don’t mind if you had referred to me in particular, because I have made precisely that point. I’m firmly on the record on that point: the Olympics should not be politicized by protesters.

    I don’t have a problem accommodating these two positions. Celebrating China’s arrival on the international stage… not the arrival of the People’s Republic of China’s government… but rather China‘s arrival on the international stage, should not be considered a political act. The Chinese government is currently administering the nation on behalf of the Chinese people, but it does not imply celebrating the nation is equivalent to celebrating the nation.

    I also don’t consider the singing of the American national anthem before a baseball, basketball, or football game to be necessarily political, and I think protesting the anthem in such a venue for any political reason would be a shame.

  38. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – I’m interested – what is your view on the American athletes who gave the black power salute at the Mexico games? Do you agree with the way they were punished?

  39. Buxi Says:

    @FOARP,

    @Buxi – I’m interested – what is your view on the American athletes who gave the black power salute at the Mexico games? Do you agree with the way they were punished?

    A bit before my time, of course.

    From what I understood though, it wasn’t the hosts in Mexico that were upset, but rather the American public at large. Understandable, since they were really attacking American society. I don’t really know how they were punished other than being removed from the Olympic Village; I think that was the right thing to do.

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