Tempests in Teapots: The Beijing Olympics and the World Press

“I wish we could go back to the Cold War so that the Olympics would be interesting.”  Thus spake  American actor John C. Reilly in jest during a mock interview with his co-star Will Ferrel for ESPN. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5ILh9X2wRA)  But the statement got me thinking about how the Beijing Olympics is being treated and mistreated by the international media.  First, there is the false promise, made by who knows who, that somehow the Olympics would CHANGE China.  I mean, let’s be serious.  This is a country of 1.3 billion people struggling over a very limited set of resources.  1.3 billion, foax.  Think on that for a minute.  If you took the entire population of America and subtracted it from China, YOU’D STILL HAVE A BILLION PEOPLE to feed, house, and clothe.  And you think a two-week sporting event is going to change their lives???

Then there is all the negative press about human rights issues and who’s being kicked out to make way for all those Olympic buildings.  Fair dinkum, right?  Who can argue against human rights?  But wasn’t it a hell of a lot more interesting when the Olympics really meant something?  When the REAL game behind the games was a brutal contest for global power and supremacy between two mighty giants who strode upon this earth?

Sure, China and the Soviet Union were once good pals.  But by 1960, a rift had developed in their relations, and by the early 1970s, China began looking for a new global partner to conduct trade with and share resources like oil.  Enter Kissinger and Nixon, and a famous detente in 1972.  Move forward to the Carter Admin and normalization of relations.  Then onto the Deng years, and finally China joining the WTO in 2001.

In other words, since the end of the 1970s, China has been more or less on track with the world system led by the United States.  Sure, there are some minor disagreements, such as that little island that lies off the coast of Fujian, inhabited mainly by Fukienese peasants.  Or the brush-ups that occur when some folks decide to fly the wong way.  Or those pesky “freedom fighters” who back the “independence” of a great snowfield from the Motherland.  Or that unfortunate “accident” that occurred in Belgrade a few years back (whoops—wrong building!  Heh heh, sorry bout that guys (sheepish grin on Uncle Sam’s mug)).  But come on foax, just because of these little mishaps, do you really believe that we aren’t all on the same side?  

I mean, look at us.  The whole world is wearing sneakers and buttons and shirts and using zippo lighters Made in China!  And do the French – the FRENCH??? – really have any reason to feel an overwhelming sense of moral superiority to the Chinese?  Let's face it, American imperialism might look like a crude, blunt, clumsy, bumbling giant treading upon the earth, but French and British colonialism were and are far more invidious—witness everything from the Opium Wars to the Treaty of Versailles to the Vietnam War.  

So let’s all get off our high horses, and just enjoy these Olympics, and appreciate the tremendous effort that the athletes have put into disciplining and training their bodies for these mind-boggling feats of Olympicity.  After all, that’s what this is really about foax—the ATHLETES!  Not the guys who carried the bleeding torch around the planet.  Not the monumental structures that have gone up in place of humble hutong homes of Beijing.  Not the flag-wavers pro or con to the Will and Destiny of the Great Motherland.  It’s about ATHLETICS, plain and simple.  In other words, it’s about GAMES.  So can people please stop building up tempests in teacups and just relax and enjoy the SHOW?

And finally, to end on a more sombre note, I wish the Beijing government the best of luck in hosting the upcoming Olympics, and wish everyone who attends yi lu shunfeng--a safe and smooth journey and a rollicking good time.