Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reflections on 500 Days Until the Beijing Olympics

This week the Chinese media have been breathlessly reporting on activities being undertaken to mark that there are just 500 days until the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Chinese Communist régime has gone to extraordinary lengths to make this Olympics compare favourably to the recent Olympics in Athens, Sydney, Atlanta and Barcelona. Wonderful new sports stadiums based on cutting-edge designs are being unveiled early. Beijing itself has been transformed by expensive landscaping and infrastructure including new subway lines. China hopes that the 2008 Olympics will mark a signal moment in its national development comparable to what the 1964 Tokyo Olympics did for Japan and the 1988 Seoul Olympics did for South Korea. Excitement is building in the hearts of Chinese nationalists throughout the land.

But what if things go horribly wrong instead of wonderfully right in Beijing in 2008? To ensure that there is no political "disruption" the Chinese police will round up "the usual suspects" of Tibetan and Uighur independentists, political dissidents, AIDS activists, etc., etc. to prevent them from attempting to contact the large numbers of foreign dignitaries and media expected to travel to Beijing for the Games. Their foreign supporters who may come to Beijing will be similarly thwarted from trying to bring the profound systemic injustices of Chinese Communist rule to the attention of the world. But I wonder how the Beach Volleyball competition scheduled for Tian'anmen Square will play out? Will the sunny temporary ersatz beach to be created for the event, Chinese flags of the Great Hall of the People flapping proudly in the background, successfully replace in the collective mind the popular images of burning tanks gunfire and death on the same ground in 1989? Or will be the television coverage of tanned muscular athletes clad in swimsuits punching their volleyballs over the net be overwhelmed by interspersed archival footage of the evening of June 4th at the same place? In their post-victory press conference, will athletes comment not just on the modern facilities they enjoyed in Beijing but also speak out about the oppression of the rights of Tibetans, Roman Catholics, Falun Gong, and the multitudes arbitrarily imprisoned and mistreated, thus bringing deep discredit to their Chinese Communist hosts and deep shuddering embarrassment to the hearts of proud and patriotic Chinese people throughout the world? What would be the political aftermath if the Olympics "failed"? Could things go from bad to much worse?

The coming of the 2008 Beijing Olympics fills my heart with uneasy foreboding.

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