As Sports Illustrated put it:
- "...Liu's pursuit of the gold was supposed to be one of the main story lines of these Summer Games, from Monday's first round of qualifying through Tuesday's second round, Wednesday's semifinals and Thursday's final....
- "...For Liu has come to represent his nation's desire for international recognition and respect...."
China on DisplayThe 2008 Beijing Olympics haven't turned out quite as the Chinese leaders had hoped.
- Journalists didn't appreciate China's carefully filtered Internet connections: and wrote about it
- A spectacular opening ceremony (CNN) featured
- CGI-enhanced fireworks (MSNBC
- Lip-synching cutie Lin Miaoke, who stood in for Yang Peiyi after the Chinese Communist Party's Political Bureau decided that Yang Peiyi didn't look good enough
- 56 children, one from each of the 56 ethnic groups in China
- Make that 56 Han children
- One dressed up in Han traditional style
- 55 dressed up as the minorities
- Make that 56 Han children
Apparently, though, those Han actors are okay. As AFP explained:
- "...To world audiences, the opening ceremony incident may have appeared insensitive to minorities, akin to having white Australians represent aborigines, but in China it is routine, said China minorities expert Dru Gladney.
- " 'I would not be surprised if some ethnic minorities in China were offended by this but they are also accustomed to it,' said Gladney, a professor at Pomona College in the United States.
- " 'In the West, we are obsessed with authenticity in such matters but it's different in China. I'd guess many Chinese would not have a problem with it.'..."
Back to Liu Xiang and the Olympics (Finally!)Liu Xiang and other Chinese athletes show that there's more to China than fake fireworks and filtered news. Having watched him warming up, I doubt that Liu believed that he'd make a good, or even adequate, showing in the 110 meter men's hurdles. But he went to the starting blocks anyway, and tried. (I posted my reaction to Liu Xiang's effort in "Liu Xiang Starts 110-Meter Hurdles: a Class Act" Apathetic Lemming of the North (August 18, 2008).)
The women's marathon, over the weekend, was another case where Chinese athletes did a better job of promoting their country than their government did. My family and I watched as Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita ran with the rest of the marathoners over a minute behind here ("Tomescu Dita's gamble pays off - Women's Marathon report" IAAF (August 17, 2008)).
Constantina Tomescu Dita won - by about 22 seconds - with Kenya's Catherine Ndereba finishing second. But China's Zhou Chunxiu and Zhu Xiaolin did more than finish in third and fourth place.
The two Chinese athletes shared a water bottle during the last part of the race: passing it along like a baton. Now that's cooperation and teamwork.
There's Good in ChinaWhile the Chinese government has been conducting its comic-opera efforts at self-promotion, Chinese athletes have been showing admirable traits. Liu Xiang's determination was a good example - even if he only made it a couple paces past the starting block.
Zhou Chunxiu and Zhu Xiaolin's sharing of a water bottle - and a Chinese flag after the race - showed a sort of cooperation and competition that many athletes could learn from.
There are good things happening at the Olympics. I prefer to concentrate on those.
While researching this post, I ran into a few interesting tidbits. Including proof that China isn't the only nation whose Olympics didn't come off quite as planned.
The 1904 Olympics, in St. Louis, had to compete with the World's Fair. And lost. On top of that, an American won the marathon. Apparently.
Fred Lorz ran into the stadium before any of the other runners, was cheered, and awarded the prize, and then banned from competition when the event organizers found out that he'd been driven part of the way.
Fred Lorz and the 1904 Olympics:
- "1904 St. Louis Olympic Games"
(A rather colorful description of, and commentary on, the games)
- "The Marathon From Hell"
Marathon & Beyond
(A more detailed look at 1904's Marathon event)
- "St. Louis 1904 - Overview"