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.
July 28, 2008 3:54 PM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
"Agh!" the Beijing Guo'an striker shouted, watching his shot skip wide.
"Welcome Olympics - Embrace Civilization - Reject Cursuing" the jumbo screen at Fengtai Stadium flashed.
"Stupid @*$#! Stupid @*$#!" three hundred emerald-clad groupies screamed.
So much for propaganda. Welcome to professional soccer in China.
Beijing Guo'an fans take in a soccer match at Fengtai Stadium.
A club of Guo'an supporters - the 'Capital Cursing League' - ran afoul of Olympic organizers last year.
When Beijing Guo'an met Qingdao Jonoon for an evening tilt July 6, it was the qiumi ('ball fans') who stood out.
Their heroes - perennial contenders for China's 'Super League' crown - looked sluggish at best, spraying balls off target between doubtful dives. Beijing won, 1-0, on a tall Brazilian ringer's goal.
Days from the opening ceremonies, asthmatic marathoners, prying reporters and plotting terrorists rate among Olympic organizers' most pressing concerns. Qiumi don't.
But qiumi do worry the Beijing brass. Liu Jingmin, the city's vice-mayor, launched a campaign against foul language last year. According to Liu, boorish Beijingers pose a threat to China's gracious Olympic image.
(Note: For more on the campaign, see 'Beijing's Olympic curse' on Blogging Beijing.)
Raucous Chinese crowds could undo Beijing's seven-year campaign in global public relations, officials fear.
Beijing's Fengtai Sports Center complex will host Olympic softball in August.
It's unclear whether the festival spirit of Guo'an soccer matches will carry over to the Olympics.
Organizers here have campaigned hard for proper match-time behavior, sponsoring corporate cheer trainings, promulgating an official 2008 cheer and selecting a 400-member platoon of booty-shaking Olympic cheerleaders.
Concepts like 'mutual respect' and 'international friendship' have received top billing at elementary schools across Beijing charged with implementing Olympic education.
(Note: For more on Beijing's unique brand of Olympic education, see 'We're proud of Beijing' on Blogging Beijing.)
National pride is one thing, name-calling another. Riots broke out following Team China's bitter loss to Japan in 2004. Next month, Beijing will crack down on disorder of any kind.
Chinese students held xenophobic demonstrations from Dalian to Shanghai following controversial Olympic torch relay stops in London and Paris this spring. Sino-Japanese relations remain shaky. Then there's the 2008 Olympic slogan: 'One World, One Dream.'
"There are still hard feelings between China and Japan," said Wu Peng, a university student in Beijing. "But when the Japanese arrive for the Olympics, we'll make friends with them."
Chinese supporters should dominate the 2008 Games - four years ago in Athens they propelled China's delegation to a record 32 gold medals.
How exactly they'll cheer, no one knows. Beijing's Olympic test events attracted a different sort of crowd than frequents Guo'an bouts. If the Games unfold without incident, it may be because communist party members and mannered business-people have hoarded all the tickets.
Interactive map of Beijing/China - follow up on posts and get oriented:
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