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Aug 09, 2008

Olympic Notes: Slam Dunk On The Earthquake




Quake Hush Money

It was just a brilliant piece of propaganda in the Olympic opening ceremonies, pairing Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming and nine-year-old Lin Hao as flag bearers for the Chinese team.  Hao has been hailed for rescuing classmates during the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province.

I juxtapose the shots I snapped off the tube -- the little boy paired with Ming, and toting the Chinese and Olympic flags (to the gushing of the network anchors, as you can just imagine) -- with this incredible shot featured recently by the NYT illustrating how the Chinese government has been using money and pressure to buy the silence of parent who suffered the loss of their children in these poorly-constructed collapsed schools.

(And yes, BAGnewsNotes is blocked in China.)

China Presses Hush Money on Grieving Parents (NYT)

(image 1-3 NBC. image 4: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times. caption: Yu Tingyun, left, lost his daughter, Yang, in the May earthquake in southwest China, and Huang Lianfen, right, lost a nephew. Ms. Huang holds an agreement that Chinese officials want parents to sign, saying they will not hold protests about collapsed schools.)


Lin Hao was still a wonderful addition to the ceremony. It was the only real genuine moment the Chinese presented in some ways, the rest being so choreographed, if spectacular. Even the U.S. athletes seemed very subdued. Only the Germans seemed to be genuinely enjoying their moment, remembering that at heart, the Olympics is about them.

I really wish more people would remember that. I'm tired of the games being so politicized, especially in the venues chosen.

Oh, and the U.S. specifically having to mention that the uniforms were Ralph Lauren was just such a lovely blatant commercialism, so typical of the American consumerism. It went right along with NBC having to go to commercial break every five minutes. God, I miss ABC having the games! I can't even watch them any more.

donna, I was also disgusted by the corporatism on display. As they broke for one commercial I noted the Exxon and GM logos and immediately switched channels. It really irritates and saddens me that we have such strict rules about the athletes not being able to receive any money or support while they are training and performing, but for everyone else, the coffers are thrown wide open. What a racket.

As I said earlier, I only watched bits and pieces, but after midnight last night it occurred to me that the theme was people as product. I think that was driven home by whatever it was they were doing when the hundreds of performers held up huge photos of people's faces. I'd be interested if anyone else had that impression.

It also seemed as if China were taking this opportunity to not only tout their accomplishments and patriotism, but to also point a wagging finger at the rest of the world. Refusing to have the parade of athletes in alphabetical order just because the rest of the world did it. Maybe I'm reading too much into this but.......I'm just sayin'.

I woke up this morning still working through the images presented in last night's opening spectacle.

My take: Gorgeous. Brilliant creative and technological flourishes. Fabfabfab fireworks. Wonderful color (at least on my TV screen). The little boy leading their athletes stole my heart and his face remains the most enduring memory. (And, hey, folks in Texas – did you notice how he said, “Thank you. Thank you, very much” to the NBC reporter?!! - Looking forward to all the ten-year-old Americans who will be speaking Chinese as appropriately.)

But when I think back to the Greek opening ceremony – on one-tenth the budget, said one of the NBC guys – I think I remember being more deeply moved by its poetry. Somehow, the Greeks put more soul into their spectacle.

According to an article in today's La Times, “Nine thousand of the 14,000 performers were PLA soldiers, who had endured some rehearsals that lasted 48 hours.”

As NBC reported at one point, “They found that the performance was seeming a little intimidating*, so they told all the performers to smile.”

(*the sheer numbers + disciplined precision)

As for the earthquake propaganda - When the children-of-the-world faces came up - from below and above - at the end of the big show,I wondered how it was playing to the Chinese, who lost so many children.

The Chinese expert said the goose-stepping soldiers would resonate for the Chinese viewers because the state is what protects them.

The state that builds shoddy schools. The state that walls off what it doesn't want people to see. Controlcontrolcontrol = HarmonyHarmonyHarmony. I'm having a hard time getting my head around it working for a billion+.

I probably need to take a course in Chinese culture. The mindset fascinates me.

I've purposely been watching all of the Olympic coverage for the past two days out of curiosity to see how the political advertising would play.

What seems obvious is the Republicans very carefully orchestrated this between the administration, the party and the McCain campaign. Cutaways to the Bush family, waiving the flag, at all the major events. Everyone smiling, feeling patriotic, singing the national anthem with a tear in their eye.

Then woven into this visual, I've seen McCain's ad 6 times, Obama's ad 2 times. McCain's ad begins with a crowd chanting "Obama, Obama" and it grabs your attention--thinking it is an Obama ad but immediately goes to attack one of Obama's perceived strengths--his popularity. I can almost repeat verbatim McCain's ad...I have no memory of Obama's ad--not what was said nor the visuals.

My only hope is the ratings will suck because from my perspective, it seems McCain is winning the gold in this media event.

Michael. Do you have any observations if you've been watching?

I'm watching a bit of prime time (more with the sound off) mostly for what Cactus is looking at, which is the commercialism (and the gender angle). Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not much of a TV viewer anymore. Give me the newswires, the key images and key video that major media picks out, and then YouTube. I do think the Opening Ceremonies had plenty to focus on. By the time I ran and got the camera, for example, Emperor Putin had already had his moment.

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