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.
June 12, 2008 4:38 PM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
A magnitude 8.0 earthquake ripped western China one month ago today, wrecking schools, homes and lives in Sichuan province. It shook up Olympic preparations as well; Beijing suspended the 2008 Torch Relay out of respect for those Sichuanese dead and/or buried. An entire country mourned (see previous Blogging Beijing posts 'Three days of mourning' and 'China shaken - reactions from Beijing').
The May 12 earthquake - also known as the Wenchuan County earthquake - won China friends and sympathizers abroad, as columnists, pundits and politicians from Seoul to Seattle softened on Beijing's Games. Here in the Middle Kingdom, tragedy took center-stage. And, for a fleeting moment, the impossible happened. The Olympics were forgotten.
Brave soliders, tireless nurses and kindly leaders performed miracles rescues on camera. Sichuan's survivors straggled into clean, orderly tent cities. The Chinese, battered by snowstorms and ethnic unrest, swelled with pride.
China contains nearly 400 million televisions; video reports from the earthquake zone absorbed Beijingers for days. Soon enough, earthquake tributes appeared alongside the city's ubiquitous Olympic displays.
A banner for the 2008 Games...a banner for Sichuan's 70,000. A neighborhood blackboard encouraging Olympic participation...a neighborhood blackboard encouraging relief donations. A street mural celebrating China's coming-out party...a street mural lamenting Sichuan's disaster.
Olympic t-shirts haven given way to super-patriotic threads as well.
AN AIRBRUSHED WALL INSIDE PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY (check out previous Blogging Beijing post 'The People's wall' for a slideshow of Olympics-themed graffiti)
China's earthquake left 5 million people homeless; about 7,000 school classrooms collapsed.
Many Beijing university campuses boast colorful stretches of wall.
According to the Associated Press, Chinese police moved to quell earthquake-related protests one month after the disaster. Some Sichuanese parents are blaming shoddily constructed schools for their children's deaths.
NEIGHBORHOOD BLACKBOARDS IN BEIJING (check out previous Blogging Beijing post 'Odds and ends' for a look at 2008 Games propaganda)
"Inner west neighborhood community-member Wenchuan earthquake disaster donation list (names and amounts)"
"Profound condolences to those compatriots who passed away in the big Sichuan earthquake"
PRE-QUAKE, POST-QUAKE FASHION
"I heart the Olympic Games. Go China!"
"I heart China more than ever."
Earthquake newslinks - one month later:
Aug 24, 08 - 02:08 AM
Personal note, thanks and goodbye
Aug 22, 08 - 08:43 AM
Olympic success for China?
Aug 18, 08 - 12:23 PM
Liu Xiang drops out
Aug 17, 08 - 04:04 AM
Beijing's Kite Master
Aug 17, 08 - 04:02 AM
Stubborn in Beijing