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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Olympic Excitement

So, the Olympics have started. I must admit that the Opening Ceremony was extremely impressive – the London organisers must be wondering what on earth they can do now. I guess it is easy when you have endless bodies who can come off army duty and do nothing but practise for 5 months. The best bit though was that we lost some of the commentary for a while, so were undisturbed by Ric Birch and his gratuituous use of the word "metaphor." Clearly he has no idea what one is, and just thought he would throw the word in as often as possible to try and make himself sound intelligent. A metaphor, Ric, is when one thing stands for another thing – it is not a theme or any of the many of words for which you substituted it.

Now I have my grammatical concerns off my chest, I will also point out that I didn't really like the Australian uniforms. Admittedly they were better than the hideous yellow driza-bone Dad had to wear at Seoul, but really they were just a bit blah. We didn't make it past the athletes – it was definitely time for bed then, so missed the whole pledge-taking, flag-raising, torch-lighting moments.

Sebastian has been talking about the Olympics at lot at school, and was very keen to watch the coverage on the weekend. He was particularly keen on the cycling road races and has decided he would like to race bikes when he is old enough. We used that as a prompt to send him outside, away from the television for a bit, to ride around the block. However, given how cold and unpleasant it was, the watching of some Olympics from the warmth of the lounge room was no bad thing.

Usual complaints about the coverage so far – we never get to see the really weird and wonderful sports, and tonight they were showing the boring tennis instead of the possible Olympic gold in the equestrian events. And swimming, swimming and more swimming. I know it is virtually un-Australian to say so, but the swimming does leave me a bit cold as a spectator sport.  I guess as Australians we have taught ourselves to love it because it is our most consistently reliable source of medals. At least there has been a bit of rowing and some kayaking and we do get the alternative coverage on SBS which shows some fun things, if a bit too much soccer for my liking!

James managed to make his own contribution to the debate about the Olympics with an article in Crikey about the cost of Olympic medals and why rich countries will always beat poor ones. There will probably be another one about the use of drugs in sport too soon.

So hurrah for the Olympics, and I just wish it was still true that they were about peace and friendshhip and harmony as one of the eight year olds at Sebastian's school said today. The cynics amongst us know that they are about nationalism and television rights and potential sponsorship money. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy them though.

August 10August 11

The boys watch the recording of the Opening Ceremony while eating breakfast on Saturday

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