Sunday, March 23, 2008
On China, the Dalai Lama, and Beijing 2008
Yesterday the Chinese government lashed out at the Dalai Lama, saying he was trying to ruin the reputation of China ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics. This is basically the same thing they did when Steven Spielberg quit as artistic director of the games, and to be honest their comments are just immature. Basically they've resorted to name-calling and whining whenever someone mentions the horrible atrocities the government has committed.
Maybe I'm being a little sensitive, or a little ignorant of our own atrocities that we don't let anyone talk about, but what the hell is that government doing? This just makes the Chinese government look petty and stupid. First you take a shot at one of the biggest directors in the world b/c he won't plan you're opening ceremony, and then you try to cut down a Nobel Peace Prize winner? All they're doing is making themselves look even worse. Every time China complains that someone or some group is giving them bad publicity for the Olympics, they look like the bad ones and end up giving themselves a ton of bad press by looking like a bunch of ignorant idiots for not recognizing the horrible things they're doing.
The situation in Tibet hasn't been good ever since the Chinese takeover. I still think of a scene from Seven Years in Tibet when Chinese officials stomp into a Buddhist temple and swipe their feet all over a painstakingly beautiful sand design the monks had been drawing on the floor for days to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese whenever these problems arise, and can't believe that it's still going on. Tibet is of little political importance, why the hell does China need it? Are they trying to over-compensate that badly?
Clearly the biggest issue regarding China at the moment is their support for the Sudanese government through oil purchases, and the effect those ties have on the Darfur region. It's a total shame that China has yet to address these issues in any meaningful way, choosing only to publicly ridicule anyone who dares to question the authority of such a well-intentioned and nationally beneficial governing party. All it takes is one search of "Tiananmen Square" on Google, and subsequently Google.cn to show how much they actually address national problems.
The more I read about the Beijing games, the more I worry about it being Berlin all over again. These games are where China attempts to show the world that Communism (even though it's fake Communism using Capitalist policies and practices to fuel the economy) is viable and going strong for the entire country and should not be questioned by the rest of the world.
First of all, they're kicking out beggars, vagrants, and mentally ill citizens out of the city for the duration of the games. In addition, it is reported that around 1.5 million people are simply being displaced from their homes. This is absolute ludicrous.
On a slightly less serious note, the Chinese are potentially going to win the medal count this year, making the 2008 Beijing games the first Summer games the United States has not won the most medals at since the fall of the Berlin Wall and then end of the US/USSR battles at the Olympics.
The Olympics have always meant more than just international athletic competition to the governments of the participating nations. National pride, global reputation, and world dominance have always been in the shadows. There's a reason the Miracle on Ice meant so much; it was against the Soviets. The global political connotations of the Olympics haven't come into play since the Soviet Union disbanded.
In Greece in 2004, China specifically used inexperienced, younger athletes instead of the competitors that could have won them more medals at the games. That strategy was employed so that in Beijing this year, China would have athletes in their physical prime at the peak of their careers in their respective events...with Olympic experience. Put aside the documented athletic boarding schools that exist in China with the sole purpose of churning out little athletes who's only purpose is to demonstrate the superiority of the Chinese way of life, this is beyond coaching.
Everyone has a coach, except maybe tennis players, but a unified national platform to win the most medals at your Olympic games? Really? This should be about coming together as a global community, about international athletic competition. It should be about the athletes and their pride in competing for their home country, not about an entire nation defeating another, or a political system being better.
I've been very glad that I never had to see an Olympic boycott or a match of epic political proportions played out on a tiny scale the way lacrosse used to be played to the death in lieu of war, but the buildup to the Beijing Olympics is getting to be too much for me. I'll end up watching, but the Chinese government is using these games to sweep all of their dust under the rug and puff their chest out to the world with a smug grin on their face, and that's just wrong. It's against the spirit of the games; it makes what should be intense athletic competition between the greatest athletes in the world into a petty political tool.