The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.
March 18, 2008 6:42 AM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
As ethnic conflicts escalate around China and dusty winds rake Beijing, the Olympic Games are becoming more than ever a 'universal signifier' - an event by which we the word's citizens may represent/explain/resolve anything.
The Olympics have always involved competition, dialogue, entertainment, fitness and health - not to mention politics (despite what the International Olympic Committee claims). From Atlanta's pipe-bombings to the Moscow boycott, high drama tends to trail the Games.
But these 2008 Beijing Olympics have busted the bell-curve. Just pick up a newspaper. Athletes and activists, actors and advertisers, Chinese and American - people of all stripes are jostling for position vis-a-vis this year's Games.
Blogging Beijing will follow suit, posting on Olympics/exercise habits, Olympics/Shenzhen and Olympics/local hip hop very soon. Until then, enjoy these 'odds and ends' - fragments of life in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Games.
More Paralympics (See 'Beijing's Paralympics' - March 12):
Below you'll find the Beijing 2008 Paralympics mascot Funui Lele - Lele the Happy Cow. According to the official Beijing 2008 website, Lele's design "derives its inspiration from the farming cultivation culture of ancient Chinese civilization..."
"Cows," the website explains, "symbolic of a down-to-earth, diligent, staunch and never-say-die spirit, are adopted to show the unremitting spirit of athletes with a disability in being the best they can be."
Lele was unveiled by a number of high-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials and Liu Qi - president of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee - on September 6, 2006 at the Great Wall, exactly two years before the Paralympic Games.
Also below you'll find the Beijing 2008 Paralympics logo.
Snapped around town:
In some ways, Beijing looks like an American city - square blocks, department stores and thundering highways. Upon closer inspection, though, strange/unfamiliar sights abound.
On Chang'an Jie, outside Beijing's cavernous Military Museum - admission 20 Yuan (US$2.75)
"2008-Olympic-Beiijing --- Olympics Cartoon Police Display --- Please install window protection net in first floor. Please be alarm of breaking into the second floor (upper-left). Park with the bicycle in the parking lot that somebody keeps watch on, please (upper-right). Please lock your door and close your window when going out or sleep at night to prevent from breaking into your house (lower-left). Prevent the bicycle from being robbed" (lower-right).
Migrant laborers from China's countryside sleep in this tent, pitched between two Beijing apartment buildings. They're landscaping a small park.
A Coca-Cola bus stop banner from February - the theme was Chinese New Year's. Notice National Basketball Association star Yao Ming on the left and gold-medalist hurdler Liu Xiang on the right. Coca-Cola is a Beijing 2008 Olympic sponsor.
A community blackboard - "'Development is for the People / Development depends on the Peoplew / Development is the People's shared achievement' - North Neighborhood Residents' Committee"
"Harmonious Olympics water service / Saving water for later starts with me"
"World Water Day / China Water Week / March 22-28 / Develop water conservation / Improve the people / Safe water service / Safe Olympics"
Scraps of news:
Thanks to 'Beijing Olympics Blog' for highlighting an interesting report way back in January. China Daily (the country's biggest English-language newspaper), published the results of a survey asking people what they most wished for from the Games this year.
Among the top ten wishes: 'to become a torchbearer for the Games,' 'to see Liu Xiang (the Chinese hurdler) win Olympic gold in person,' 'to pose for photographs in front of newly built Olympic stadiums' and 'smooth traffic during the Games.'
For a complete 'top ten' list and more commentary, link to Beijing Olympics Blog above.
And then this story, originally published through Xinhua (China's government sponsored media outlet): "No rats for Beijing, even in the 'Year of the Rat'".
Rights activists have decried a (tentative) government plan to forcibly sweep beggars, prostitutes and migrant workers from Beijing in August. So far, no one has rallied behind the city's rats.
Beijing's Olympic organizers are determined to prepare a clean, wholesome city - they will host more than 500,000 overseas guests during the Games. With thousands of foreign reporters soon to arrive, poverty's representatives in Beijing - human and vermin (not to actually compare the two) - may be dealt with severely.
According to Deng Xiaohong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, the campaign will begin on February 26, targeting Olympic venues. Rat poison will be employed and distributed around the city at non-Olympic areas including apartments, wet markets and fowl breeders.
"Beijing health workers will send teams to inspect the rats-killing work, and will impose fines on those who failed their job," Deng said.
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