Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chinese People's Olympics Apathy

Four years ago, when Beijing was hosting the Olympic Games, most Chinese people were extremely excited and proud of their coming of age party, a party so grand that no one would dare to challenge ever after.  That country poured grotesquely large amount of money into the Games and duly stunned the rest of the world for its brutal efficiency and the brutishly stunning spectacle of the Opening Ceremony.

Four years later, the 2012 Olympic Games is well underway in London, Great Britain, yet many Chinese people seem to have decidedly much less enthusiasm and even apathy towards the Olympics.

According to some Chinese language media, and through talking to my family in China, I recognized the striking change of attitudes.  One clear reason was the location and distance.  In 2008, China hosted the Olympics in Beijing for the first time; while now it is in the faraway London, where most Chinese have never seen and will never have the chance to visit.  However, people also have lost some interests in the gold medals which they used to counted ounce by ounce four years ago with the greed like an Harpagon, the titular character of The Miser (L'Avare) by Molière.

Four years ago, many of them firmly believed that the Olympics would be the panacea of all social woes, as promised by the government.  Yet, four years later, they discovered, that after a storm, cities were still flooded (see images below from Beijing in July 2012). Yet, despite the huge amount of money spent on infrastructures, the list of sorrow stories goes on: High speed trains still crash; food/milk/medicine are still poisonous; officials are still corrupt; people still have trouble in paying for education, medicine and even tomb plots. 

Beijing, July 2012

The demolitions and constructions were not limited to Beijing.  After the Olympic Games in Beijing, other big cities in China competed to put on their own shows - Shanghai had its World Expo; Guangzhou hosted the 2010 Asian Games; etc. My home city, Shenyang, is preparing for the most superfluous All China Games with much demolitions and constructions, despite the fact that the city refused to pay some employees and pensioners the nationally mandated salary increases for lacking funds.  One prime example was the demolition of a 9-year-old, state-of-art, one of the largest indoor stadiums in Asia, built in the "unsuitable location" in Shenyang:

Shenyang, June 12, 2012

Regular folks continue to suffer, contractors continue to make profit and the officials continue to enrich themselves with kickbacks in the process of such demolition and construction and in the name of people.

Internationally, China is as isolated as ever, with only friends in the league of Syria, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and perhaps Russia.  People outside China watched its phenomenal economic growth with awe and fear.  Envy played some role perhaps, but definitely a minor one.  It was Chinese government's refusal to comply by the international standards and decency keeps China outside the international community.  No window dressing Olympics could change that.

Chinese people had learned their lessons in a hard way.  At least, they have opened up their eyes.  They are saying loudly that the Opening Ceremony of 2008 in Beijing was a celebration of absolute control and absolute order, while in 2012 in London they saw a celebration of humanities.  No wonder, they are becoming more cynical and less enamored with the obvious glitter.

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