Friday, August 01, 2008

A Murky Olympics

Beijing's Olympic Village - 11 Days Before the Opening Ceremony

"In Beijing, Blue Skies Prove Hard to Achieve"

Less than two weeks before the Olympics, Beijing’s skies are so murky and polluted that the authorities are considering emergency measures during the Games beyond the traffic restrictions and factory shutdowns that, so far, have failed to clear the air, state media reported on Monday.
Other murky business . . . .

"China to Limit Web Access During Olympic Games"
Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages — among them those that discuss Tibetan issues, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square and the Web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC’s Chinese-language news, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

The restrictions, which closely resemble the blocks that China places on the Internet for its citizens, undermine sweeping claims by Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, that China had agreed to provide full Web access for foreign news media during the Games. Mr. Rogge has long argued that one of the main benefits of awarding the Games to Beijing was that the event would make China more open.

“For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the Internet,” Mr. Rogge told Agence France-Presse just two weeks ago.
"I.O.C. Member Accuses Committee of Betrayal on Censorship Issue"
The senior International Olympic Committee member who on Wednesday made the announcement that Chinese government censors were blocking sensitive Internet sites despite assurances that Web access in China would be unfettered has accused the I.O.C. of “betrayal.”

The official, Kevan Gosper, an I.O.C. member for 31 years, told the Sydney daily The Australian on Thursday that his reputation and that of the I.O.C. had been damaged by China’s actions.

“I don’t know who did the deal,” Gosper told The Australian. “I am still finding out. I understand it was reached with very senior officials. Whoever was involved in that shift, that position should have been made known to the international media community. As a conduit to that, I should have been informed, too, instead of being isolated and given misinformation for some time.”

“China changed course at some stage,” Gosper told the newspaper. “I don’t know when. I can’t guarantee there won’t be other changes.”


pbwiener said...

I'm predicting - and hoping - that these Olympics will be a major humuliation for China (as if that were possible). It's already proven to be an embarrassment to nearly everyone who agreed to be in it. I pray that some athlete uses the public theatre for more than athletic competition. Asfar as I'm concerned, the world has enabled China to shit on it with a smile.

Garpu said...

For the censorship, the issues with Tibet, and a whole host of other reasons I'm boycotting the Olympics. Not sure what good it'll do, though.

Jeff said...

One of my work-friends and I have been chuckling over the blue-sky guarantee for some time now. If some guy or team of guys has been tasked by the Party to make sure that sunny skies prevail over the games (or else!), I'm sure they've been giving rosy status reports for years now. "Yep, everthing is on schedule comrades... I assure you that you'll see no smog or rain... Only sunshine! Everything is going according to plan!"

What else are they going to say, without getting two in the hat?

I don't know... Did China deserve to host these games? In effect, they've turned from a communist state into a fascist state over the last couple of decades. Their whole approach to the games bugs me, even beyond the censorship and thuggishness. Their whole attitude, even down to putting enormous resources into events they've never shown much interest in before, like rowing, so that they can scoop buckets full of medals in order to top the medal count.

Shades of 1936?

crystal said...

Wow - I almost forgot about the olympisc in China. This makes McCain's meeting with the Dalai Lama more understandable :)

For all the reasons mentioned by the others, I hope everyone boycots the olympiscs.

cowboyangel said...

Interesting to see everyone's comments. Pretty negative reaction, it seems.

I bet NBC execs are sweating it out right now, wondering if they're going to have much of an American audience.

Yes, I would hate to be the Chinese officials in charge of the Blue Sky Initiative. After the way China handled the tainted food scandal.

We'll see if any athletes use the occasion to engage in protest. There was a full-page ad in the NY Times this week, by a pro-Tibet group, basically asking athletes to take a stand.

McCain's meeting with the Dalai Lama. . . . Did anyone see Jon Stewart's take on it? He basically pointed out the fact that McCain is a terrible actor (not good for a politician) and was obviously uncomfortable as the Dalai Lama kept holding onto his hand while talking. It was pretty amusing.

cowboyangel said...

Stewart on McCain and the Dalaia Lama:

Liam said...

China is definitely pushing its balancing act as far as it can go here -- in the end I think it will force them to deal with things they didn't want to. Authoritarian regimes can host the Olympics without changing, though -- look at Utah!

I'm afraid we won't be boycotting the Olympics this year -- Filius IPAO keeps asking when they're going to start. And the basketball, the basketball!

cowboyangel said...

From a strictly practical point of view, I don't see how athletes are going to be able to run marathons or do a lot outside, if the photo above is any indication of the pollution levels right now.

I feel sorry for the athletes who've trained for years to go to the Olympics and have to confront pollution conditions like that. It's not fair to them.