Ideology at work or nah-nah, the Chinese aren’t that good

I must say that I have been a little disturbed by the news media's glee at finding things "wrong" with the Opening Ceremony. At first I had been proud of the Australian media – we had so loved Athens because it clearly wasn't as good as Sydney and didn't the media just love every tiny example of the crapness we could dredge up during that coverage. Wasn't the media overjoyed when the closing ceremony didn't have the traditional affirmation that Athens had been the best Olympics ever. Oh yes, Sydney was amazing and brilliant and ever-so-much better than anything else.

So when the papers appeared to acknowledge that the Beijing Opening Ceremony was impressive on a scale not encountered before, I had hope that maybe we had had enough of our slightly ugly need for superiority. But alas, that didn't last long. At first we had a critique of the "faked" fireworks. Never mind that they had been let off at the same time, it was just that they had taken a practical and sensible approach to ensuring both spectacle and safety. And never mind the hypocrisy of Australian newspapers, most of whose coverage, as pointed out by Crikey, had been pre-written to meet publishing deadlines, based on the dress rehearsal – their own fakery. Then the whole excitement over the blue-screen-of-death thing – hooray, they are not perfect! And now the carry on about the little girl. I mean really, can we pretend that Nicki Webster was just picked off the street and wasn't chosen following a whole series of auditions and comparisons. Can we really pretend that countless little Australian girls weren't discarded because they weren't considered pretty enough? Nicki was chosen to represent some ideal of Australianness with her blonde curls and her blue eyes and freckles. Similarly, the Chinese wanted the best looking child they could find. And she was cute, it must be said.

The whole of the let's-criticise-Beijing thing is so caught up in our own parochial need to continue to pat ourselves on the back, it is a little ugly. It also means we miss the real problems about China and its regime. We are so busy saying how terrible it is poor Chinese people can't afford tickets (and the Sydney ones were so accessible for the unemployed, not) and that their Olympic precinct isn't as full as people as ours, that we have totally forgetten about their oppression of ethnic minorities (and there are more of them than just Tibetans), their ignoring of environmental standards, their violent approach to the punishment of petty criminals etc etc. There are plenty of things to criticise the Chinese for legitmately – why do we need to get caught up in this petty nitpicking?

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Heavy weight contenders

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