Monday, August 25, 2008

at the close of the Olympics

Peter Foster, Telegraph bloggerIt's all over now; two weeks of fevered sporting madness, during which some of our acquaintances appear to have forgotten resolutions not to watch the Olympics. Personally I kept to mine, but am now wondering if I did the right thing; instead of Minora watching events behind my back as a form of rebellion, it might have been educational for both of us to see, as the Telegraph's Peter Foster reports, the the Chinese Communist Party thumbing its nose "spectacularly" at the International Olympics Committee and getting away with it.

what does 'prettier' mean at this age?The subterfuge started at the opening ceremony, where a girl was rejected for having uneven teeth, yet her voice was used for the opening song, "Ode to the Motherland", which was lip-synched by a girl judged to be "prettier", whatever that means when grown men use it in relation to pre-pubescent girls. Chen Qigang, music producer for the ceremony, justified this as being "in the national interest".

Using children in the national interest doesns't stop there. Again the Telegraph reports:

the training regimes are still reminiscent of those used in East Germany in the Soviwhy is this not being recognised as abuse?et era. Promising children are hothoused from as young as six in elite, sports-focused boarding schools, where their access to their families is often limited. Only last week, Joseph Capousek, a successful German kayak coach who was recently sacked as trainer of the Chinese national team, said his former employers ran a military-style training regime where athletes were worked "like horses". Chinese officials have denied his claims.
In fact, there is an enquiry ongoing as to whether a Chinese gold-medal athlete, He Kexin, is actually 16, as it says on her passport, or is really 14, which would invalidate her entry (there are fears that practicing gymnastics can stunt the growth of young people). this does not seem to bother the Chinese - on a visit to an athletics hothouse in 2005, rower Sir Matthew Pinsent "saw a seven-year-old girl crying while being made to do handstands, and a boy with marks on his back" (click picture above for story).
Wu Dianyuan, 79 and Wang Xiuying, 77, arrested for applying to protest
Towards the other end of the mortal coil, two women in their 70's were interrogated for 10 hours and then, without a trial, sentenced to a year's re-education through labour. Their crime? The Chinese Government had set up "protest pens", so they applied to stand in one of them to protest. Peter Foster compares the protest-pens to the "‘Hundred Flowers' campaign of 1956-57 when intellectuals were invited to be frank about matters of public policy and then promptly purged for their honesty".

Although all the tickets for this Olympiad were sold out, all 6.8 million of them, there have been many empty seats in the Olympics. These were filled by students and volunteers, who were instructed to sit in the vacant seats whether or not they were interested in the individual contest being played out. I would've liked to have pointed this out to Minora, but the chance is lost now.

Anyway, the Chinese government decided that there would be much more visitors than turned up, and so set up procedures to divert water supplies to the capital from outlying farming areas. You don't have to be a genius like Professor Calculus to figure out what happened next: wells dried up; the price of water in the parched areas rose 300%; farmers got in hock to moneylenders and, in order to escape notification that payment was due, killed themselves by drinking pesticide. The biting irony of the situation is that, due to the poor turnout at the "sellout" Olympics, not a single drop of water was diverted from these regions to Beijing. The official reaction was that "the entire population was overjoyed to be making a sacrifice for the national good".

So despite the neglect of its own people, harrassment of the vulnerable and ideological certainty that it need not be troubled by doubt, a veritable army of the world's quangocrats has descended upon Beijing to present their countries in surrender mode. I said in an earlier post that "unless the International Olympic Committee stands up for itself, China will use it as a doormat." The IOC hasn't, and China has done so, and is taking its place as king of the castle.

I'm sure Boris Johnston, London's Mayor, is getting so much advice about the 2012 Olympics due to be held in London that he doesn't know whether he's coming or going. But if I may add my own straw to the camel's back, I would suggest: hold another austerity olympics. Let sport and the human spirit share the gold.

Related posts:
Sport isn't worth that much - Yamiti's Olympic struggle
As the Olympics begin

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Please feel free to leave a comment - Frugal Dougal.