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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Welcome to the Himalayas!

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Last night we ventured to the Himalayas for our culinary delights. Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan offered up their cuisines for us, and it was good.

We had momos to commence. These were extremely yummy and once again proved that wrapping things and making them into dumplings is a winner no matter what country. No wonder we've discoverd some variation in at least three diverse geographical locations so far.

The wrapping things theory was also proved with the pancakes and filling provided by Rachel, including the fabulous black dhal (the dhal of evil – but yum!). There was other dhal as well, spinach and lamb curry, pork fing and potatoes with cheese.

We finished the meal with Tibetan cheesecake with nuts and carrot fudge. All remarkably tasty.

Meanwhile, the boys watched TV in Bronwen's bed….

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Today was the Olympic torch relay in Canberra.  I must say that I have felt enormously conflicted about the whole event.  I think the behaviour of the Chinese in Tibet is appalling – and admire the canniness of the Tibetans in ensuring that the whole situation has come to the attention of the world  in such a timely way. My cultural theorist side also understands exactly what is happening  with international sporting events like the Olympics: the construction, reinforcement of national identity, the promotion of very specific physical achievements as being a goal we should all strive for, the cult of individualism, the masses of money and the fact that events are now staged to suit television audiences. I know all that, and I can write as insightful a critical analysis of the ideological and hegemonic approaches that the Olympics involve as the next person.

However, there is part of me  which is still the girl who grew up in a house where the Olympics were seen as important and significant, where the kind of ideals that the Olympics are meant to espouse were seen as important. I remember how appalled my father was when he was at the Olympics at Atlanta and saw the Nike ads which said You don't win the silver. You lose the gold. My entire life I saw going to the Olympics (as a spectator, I was never going to be a good enough athlete) as something I pictured doing – and I was thrilled in 2000 to get to go. Of course, the experience was even better because there my mother was, officiating on the pole vault. But I was thrilled to be able to sit in that stadium and experience the colelctive emotion when Australians won medals. I enjyed it so much, we went to the Commonwealth games to do it again.

So the whole torch relay thing left me feeling a bit torn. On the on half, I complete support the protesters, but on the other I felt sad for the high school student who had some of the polish of what must be an enormous honour taken off it by having the media asking him if he felt guilty. I liked Jacquelin Mangay's piece in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning about her own feelings about being in the relay.  I was at home today looking after Sebastian and his friend Martin, so, in the end, we walked the 12 minutes to Northbourne Ave to see the relay.

We didn't see any protesters or violence or trouble, but we did see some rampant Chinese nationalism – and more Chinese flags than I could count. I definitely saw more Chinese people in Canberra today than ever before – and it didn't surprise me to read that bunches of students had been bused in. There was also a very significant police presence.

And I must admit I still felt emotional when I saw the flame go by. It doesn't mean that I won't be lighting a candle for Tibet during the Opening Ceremony of the Games, but I'll also be watching it on television and explaining to my boys how their grandfather has marched in the Opening Ceremony in the past, and how their grandmother has been an official. And we might also talk about Tibert. I don't think that the two things are mutally exclusive.

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