Saturday, August 23, 2008

Guardian writer bemoans 'humourless' Olympics

I thought this was an interesting article from The Guardian's Marina Hyde today.

I don't know if this view is common amongst the foreign media but the writer is basically saying the Beijing Games have been swamped by a particularly stage-managed form of national pride that at times verges on being forced.

I don't entirely go along with the article; I don't remember any Olympic Games being particularly full of humour, and I think you have to allow for the fact that is a ground-breaking event for China - it has never done anything like this on the world stage - so perhaps the country is entitled to indulge in national pride. Maybe after four or five events of this magnitude, China can afford to be more relaxed and irreverent.

One thing I do agree with is that London does indeed seem like the perfect 'counterpoint' to Beijing and I do look forward to a Games that is different in style and atmosphere.

And yes, some funny banners wouldn't go amiss either.

From the article:
The Beijing Games are a place of steely schmaltz, where nothing goes wrong, ever... They are the place where the organising committee explained of the ordinary Chinese: "Everybody is happy. That is a fact."

It's basically like The Matrix, but with less cool clothes. And nothing makes you wish you hadn't taken the red pill like seeing volunteers, coralled into filling empty seats at a venue, unfurling a banner reading "Nothing can stop the power of China". By crikey, they need to work on their bannercraft. You just yearn for the sort of sentiment that can adorn the flags at England away games. "Don't go into labour Hayley" - that sort of thing.

For all their slick management and the great sporting display, it should be said that China's Games have been spectacularly, creepily humourless. There has been not one iota of good natured fun-poking in the national media, not a single comedy montage on the 18 state TV channels dedicated to reverential coverage of China's big moment. Nothing has been allowed to interfere with the official line. The effect is oddly static, as though the people's joy is being handed to them like a stone tablet, instead of being a democratised, roots-up explosion.

As we prepare to turn the corner into the next Olympiad, Britain is starting to look like the perfect contrasting destination for the old torch. These Games have provided in-stadia thrills, but how much richer the Olympics will be for taking place in a city of irreverence and cynicism, as well as enthusiasm...

We may not have 2,000 perfectly synchronised drummers, but we've got a nation of cussed folk dancing to their own beats.

If Beijing's Games were a state's Olympics then London's ought to be a democracy's - the chance to humanise them a bit more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

China's approach to car design

We've all seen made-in-China, imitation brand cameras and gadgets... but cars?

It seems that China's car industry also goes to extraordinary lengths to make products that look like those of Western manufacturers.

Visually, they vary from being passable lookalikes to way-off-the-mark imitations. But as for performance and safety.. well, I shudder to think!

via Blame it on the Voices

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Worst Olympics ad ever?

Okay, we (the Spanish national basketball team) are going to the Olympics in Beijing.

What can we do in our pre-Olympics photoshoot that will really set the right tone for our trip to China?

Nice. The photo was taken for an ad for a courier company, Seur, who are sponsors of Spain's basketball team and ran in the country's top selling newspaper.

There were reports that the Spanish team were loudly booed by normally respectful spectators during their game against China (which Spain won) and it's thought it was partly due to this story hitting the net.

Spain has something of a history when it comes to racial insensitivity in sport. Their national football coach made derogatory racial remarks about France's Thierry Henry for which he was heavily fined, and of course last year Spanish Formula One fans decided to welcome Britain's Lewis Hamilton to their country by blacking up their faces and wearing T-shirts that said 'Hamilton family'. What a funny country.

In an extra twist, it turns out that the Spanish basketball team is also part sponsored by Li-Ning footwear, the company founded by Chinese sporting legend Li Ning who lit the torch at the Beijing opening ceremony.

Apparently no official apology or comment has been forthcoming the Spanish team.

Full story: New York Times blog.
Related: 08.08.2008: Let the Games begin...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mystery surrounds the deaths of two mature students in Newcastle

Police have just released video footage of the victims of a double killing in Newcastle named as Zhen Xing Yang, 25, and his girlfriend Xi 'Ci Ci' Zhou, also 25. Both had graduated with MAs at Newcastle University. There seems to be no apparent motive for the killings.

The Newcastle Chronicle reports:

Ci Ci hadn’t been seen by friends for two days and she failed to turn up for her shift at Wagamama’s restaurant in Old Eldon Square, Newcastle, where she worked from 11am to 3pm.

When one concerned pal went back to the flat with a former tenant and two other friends, they couldn’t get a response. They managed to get in through an unsecured window at the back and then unlocked the door.

Northumbria Police were alerted at around 4.30pm on Saturday. They arrived to seal of the rented ground floor flat in Arthur’s Hill, in Newcastle’s West End.

Police have been trying to trace their next of kin and detectives have carried out inquiries with the Chinese community, particularly the Chinese students’ association in Newcastle. It is believed ritualistic or Triad connections have been ruled out.

Detectives are looking at the couple’s background, associates, and their last known movements. They are working on the theory they may have been targeted by a killer or killers who knew them.

Full story.

A terrible end to two young lives. Anyone with information is asked to call Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043.

Friday, August 08, 2008

08.08.2008: Let the Games begin...

What must be one of the most eagerly anticipated Olympic Games ever is about to kick off.

What's unusual about Beijing 2008 and part of why these particular Games have generated so much interest are all the issues other than sport: Can China stage the Games successfully? Will the Games signal a change in China's social and political landscape? Is it right for a country with such oppressive human rights policies to bask Olympic glory? Will the Games be disrupted? Will the Games fail? Will the world change its view of China after the Games and will China change its view of itself?

For once, I think it's true to say that the world really will be watching at 1:00pm GMT.

In the meantime, here's a selection of recent Beijing 2008 articles:

MSNBC (amongst others) reports on the dress code that has been issued to Beijing residents advising them literally 'What Not To Wear'. The forbidden fashion list includes the ever popular wearing of white socks with black shoes, and wandering the streets in pyjamas. Trinny and Susannah would approve, I'm sure!

The New York Times reports on the explosion of advertising surrounding the Games in China and how local companies are having to up their game to compete with unprecedented levels of foreign ads.

The Guardian reports on one of the more contentious issues: The millions of Chinese who have been displaced to make way for the Games. There is no doubt that China has pulled out all the stops to makes these Games happen, but at what cost to ordinary, non-Olympian citizens?

The Times reports that top Chinese scientists will use the latest medical techniques to ensure that all female competitors in the Games are really female, putting paid to all those 'Surely that's a bloke?' type conversations.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Charity Canal Cruise with the Chinese Information and Advice Centre

Just a quick mention for this event I stumbled upon:

CIAC (Chinese Information and Advice Centre) are organizing a special charity cruise along London's Regent Canal, travelling from Little Venice to Camden on August 17th. Tickets are £25 and include food, drink and a £10 donation.

CIAC provides a range of services to the Chinese community ranging from legal help to advice on immigration and domestic issues. They are a valuable service for members of our community who are unable to access normal community services due to the language barrier.

For further details please go to the CIAC website.