10 August 2008

China, the Olympics, & Me

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

A couple of weeks ago, before the Beijing Olympics began, the New York Times ran an article (one of many appearing in news sources around the world) about China cleaning up before the games. The story reminded me of the late period of Erich Honecker’s East Germany: it used to be said that the houses along Honecker’s journey from home to office would be repainted regularly, so as to remind him of the beautiful socialist state in which he lived. Such was the delusion necessary to overcome what would otherwise have been obvious about the gray and oppressive German Democratic Republic.

The same seems true in Beijing, where oppression remains the name of the game, even as the city hosts the Olympics. China’s excitement and anticipation may be well founded, as is the desire to put the best foot forward – especially in light of the difficulty visitors and athletes alike will have trying to breathe in Beijing. But razing vast swathes of living, breathing neighborhoods, covering up (literally and figuratively) a city’s centuries-long growth, is too much. It is a sharp reminder of how far China has to go before it becomes a nation in which its citizens are well-respected by the state itself, and in which its pride derives from its people and their everyday activities, as much as “prestige” projects like the Olympics.

Of course, repression in China is not new, including oppression in relation to the Olympics. Back in September 2000, I wrote about an unbelievable story on NBC that effectively endorsed China’s abusive approach to training Olympic athletes. Those stories of abuse continue, eight years later. Instead of caring about the way that China (and other nations) train their competitors, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is more concerned about the eternal and largely irrelevant problem of “doping.” Apparently the so-called level playing field applies only to performance-enhancing drugs, not performance-enhancing torture and manipulation.

This time around, my approach to the Olympics will be different: more apathy and more distance. The best revenge I can think of – revenge for our cultural, political, and corporate complicity in supporting and sustaining both the authoritarian Chinese regime and the false modesty of the IOC – is to ignore the games entirely.

I wish the American team the best of luck. And I do that with the knowledge that my lack of attention to their competition in Beijing will have no bearing on their potential for gold medal victories.


Blogger Jake said...

As bad as state-sponsored repression is in China, the worst rights violations are caused only indirectly by the government. Severe labor exploitation, lack of access to education and healthcare, and local corruption are the biggest complaints of Chinese people themselves, even if the Western media ignores them because they don't fit in the traditional rights discourse. If you're interested, take a look at my longer analysis here.

1:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home