For Chinese, it's the teflon Olympics
The Beijing Games have been dogged with global criticism on everything from censorship to pollution. But Chinese people still see them as their government does: a great coming-out party.
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“The history of the last 100 years has been a history of humiliation for the Chinese. Finally we are standing up, so this is a big moment for all Chinese,” he said.Skip to next paragraph
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It has become common for ordinary Chinese to read such historical meaning into an event that in other cities has usually been simply a grand sporting spectacle and a chance to indulge a little civic pride.
“The Olympics mean much more to China than to previous host countries because they have been stressed as the opportunity to showcase ... the country’s achievements,” says Fu Yuanyuan, a young PR consultant. “I think it’s a milestone.”
“It’s a big thing for China, so it’s a big thing for me,” explained Hu Jinan, a businessman from Hubei Province, 500 miles south of Beijing, who had brought his two daughters to the capital to show them the Olympic venues. He rested in the shade Saturday while his girls walked along the fence surrounding the Olympic Green.
Putting up with daily disruptions
Skeptics have raised their voices, but more often in the anonymity of the Internet than on the streets.
As at previous Olympics, some critics are angered by the high costs of the Games: Beijing’s are estimated at around $40 billion, in a country where many citizens remain rooted in poverty. They also point out that many of the city’s poorest residents have lost their homes, as the government seized land for Olympics-related structures.
Others are bothered by the disruptions to daily life in Beijing that the Games have brought. “The five Olympic rings felt like five nooses, slipping one by one onto his neck,” reads a passage in an anonymous satirical short story about current life in China’s capital that has proved enormously popular on the Web.
Most Beijing residents, though, seem prepared to put up with security arrangements that would seem oppressive in most capitals, and with draconian traffic regulations, in order to ensure the Games’ safety and success.
“Tight security is necessary,” says Yao Jiawei, a young journalist. “It keeps foreigners safe, and that’s needed to maintain China’s international image, and the Olympics are also a test of the government’s ability to guarantee ordinary people’s safety.”
“The policies certainly have an impact on our lives,” says an accountant with an IT company who identified herself as Mrs. Wu, complaining about new traffic rules designed to reduce pollution. “But since they are for the Olympics I can put up with them.”
Meanwhile, all billboards in the capital have been taken down and replaced with “Beijing 2008” posters; every lamppost on every major thoroughfare is draped with “Beijing 2008” banners, and from every pedestrian bridge hang proclamations of “One World, One Dream,” China’s Olympic slogan.
Shoppers looking for a souvenir of China’s “once in a century event” jammed counters at the Olympic Flagship Store on Wangfujing, a popular pedestrian precinct, Saturday, choosing between plush toys, pens, playing cards, jade pendants, hats, teapots, and a thousand other items, all decorated with the Beijing 2008 logo.
Was the Olympic obsession not a little excessive, one shopper was asked. “Oh no,” said Tang Nan, a student who said she had already bought all the Beijing 2008 souvenirs she could afford. “It just shows the Chinese people’s enthusiasm.
“I haven’t met anyone who isn’t excited,” she added.