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Archive for August, 2008

…and I enjoyed it.

Even though I had a whole bunch of posts about the Olympics written here, I don’t think I had a single one talking about the sports itself. This might make me seem like some kind of intellectual tool who just likes to sit around at dinner parties talking about how messed up the world is with my other equally intellectual toolish friends while sipping different kinds of wine from some famous little vineyard and making witty comments taken from NPR’s ‘This American Life’ program.

But I actually really like sports. Michael Phelps? Hell, those were some pretty awesome swims. I personally prefer to float around in the ocean on my back and lazily kicking my feet to get from to a desired location, but swimming fast is good too. I also went to school with Natalie Coughlin and I saw her on Bancroft one time after the Athens Olympics. I said ‘congrats’ and she said ‘thanks’ and I thought ‘my god you’re the hottest person in the world’. And Usain Bolt? Some people were hating on him for showing off, but I like it. I mean it really looks like he’s genuinely having fun. I didn’t really follow too much of the Chinese athletes since I’m mostly interested in swimming and track sports, but those boxers were pretty awesome. And getting a medal in the marathon? Awesome.

Now there were quite a few controversies, but I go both ways for most of them. I mean the gymnast girl being too damn young to compete? Jeez, that kind of cheating is nothing compared to all those doping scandals that hit western athletes. It’s a stupid rule anyways. If an eight year old kid can run faster than Usain Bolt, then hell, he DESERVES the gold medal.

On the other hand, the failure of China to allow any protests at all is idiotic. I mean a lot of problems in China are well known and obvious so allowing these people to voice their opinions in these middle-of-nowhere protest zones wouldn’t have hurt the state. I mean if some old lady is going to complain about lack of pension payments from her local work unit, it doesn’t reflect poorly on the government itself especially if the CCP takes this opportunity to expediently resolve the problem and use that old woman as a showcase of communist love.

However, the thing that I’m most disappointed about is Hong Kong. How I long for the days of San San and windsurfing. I guess this year, Hong Kong’s performance affirms the stereotype that Hong Kong athletes are wax ducks.

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America:

Building the Birds Nest Commercial

Yao v. Lebron Unity Commercial

China:

Top Athletes and Torch Commercial

Olympic Song and Red Carpet Commercial

I got this idea while I was watching the Olympics. The Coca Cola commercials, in my opinion, have been pretty good. I mean the one with Yao Ming and LeBron James competing and then sharing a coke at the end was catchy and had a nice message. The other one about the little birds building their own birds nest out of straws was cute as all hell.

Then I was wondering about the commercials in China so I contacted a few of my friends still over there and they gave me a couple links which showed fairly stereotypical advertisements about the Olympics coming to China and how everyone is excited and ready or whatever.

None of the three people I talked to saw the two American commercials on TV in China.

So I asked my three friends what they thought about the American Olympics commericals and all three of them said that they were both very good. The lone male enjoyed the basketball one more while the two girls thought the birds one was better. However, all three thought that they were better than the Chinese commercials.

Then I asked them why they thought the American commericals were not shown in China? I mean it can’t be a language problem since there isn’t much talking in those commercials and it seemed to me like they were really interesting. Surprisingly enough, all three of them gave me the same answer for why the Yao v. LeBron commercial wasn’t broadcasted: It was too risky.

They don’t want to breed tensions between America and China since it showed LeBron and Yao competing against each other in the beginning. I asked them about the sharing of cokes and the ‘ganbei/cheers’ at the end, and they said they understood how that would make them friends, but other few people on the internet might blow things out of proportion. Since Coca Cola doesn’t want to be the next Carrefour, they aren’t willing to take that risk. Other reasons cited would be that older generations of Chinese people might not like the style of the commercial and some people might not know what all those animated stuff around LeBron James was supposed to represent.

It’s funny how the LeBron/Yao commercial was supposed to be about Unity (and selling Coke of course) and one possible reason why it’s not being shown in China is because it might be divisive. It seems like the Visa commercials also seem to be trying to focus on some kind of Unity theme. I guess this is because of that One World  One Dream slogan, but since this slogan was made up by the Chinese, why aren’t the commercial sponsors exploiting it? Well, I guess there are some Chinese people who are still not ready for One World with One Dream unless that One Dream is China winning all the Gold Medals or something like that. With that said, the people I’ve talked to seem to be cool with that message and are only worried that people stupider than they are would complain.

And on a final note, none of them had any problems with the Birds Nest commercial. Maybe they should start playing that in China. Chinese people dig cute stuff.

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I must say, I’m a little disappointed. I’m back in America and for some reason, NBC decided to have a 15 hour tape delay for the Opening Ceremony. By the time I was actually began to watch it, I was filled with all these high expectations from checking out the pictures and reading positive articles describing it as the greatest opening ceremony of all time.

When the thing began, I must say the drums were pretty cool with the lights flashing with each hit. Even cooler was the light show count down thing. That was bloody awesome. I was pretty excited at that point. And then… yeah. There was some kind of weird ballet dancing-calligraphy mountain-ocean painting thing that was happening. And then there was a bunch of people doing martial arts while kids sat around and did something. There were a bunch of oars being waved around. Yeah, there were a bunch of people.

So they were going through Chinese history and culture, and my crude guess would be that the theme is ‘openness’ (which is a good thing since China was always in much better shape when they were open to the world). The artsy stuff and weird costumes weren’t really my thing (though I thought it was cool when all those people jumped out of the printing press blocks). The ending was awesome though. I mean running around the top of the stadium like it was a Hong Kong kung fu movie? That was cool.

However, it was very Zhang Yimou-ish (Here’s a link to CDT writing about Zhang Yimou’s tastes). I really liked ‘To Live’ and I heard that ‘Dream of Red Whatever’ was pretty good too, but his later movies all kind of sucked. I mean they were huge movies with a trillion actors and pretty scenery and crazy costumes, but you really didn’t get the feel of the story. Even chick flicks and romantic comedies makes you feel something for the characters. There just really wasn’t any personality in some of Zhang Yimou’s later works.

And I got the same feeling from this Opening Ceremony. I mean it was cool and there was a lot of eye-candy (none of it being large breasted girls which Mr. Zhang is famous for showcasing), but I didn’t get the emotional surge that this is something all of China is proud of and has been waiting five million years for. I mean during the Sydney Opening Ceremony, I really liked how they depicted their history and how they used a single individual to give the whole thing a personal touch.

There’s also a lot of controversy over how much money was blown on this. My dad argues that China has so much foreign reserves that they can afford to buy themselves some international prestige. I argued back that something lower key would be better at showing the world that the CCP is becoming a responsible super power. However, it’s not my tax money so I won’t complain about it.

Oh shit… it is my tax money from when I worked in China for two years. Damn it. Alright, I guess I’ll have to complain. Especially since they didn’t have any pandas doing kung fu.

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The End of the Wait

So the wait has finally ended for the Olympics to arrive. Well, I guess there’s officially 5 more hours until the Opening Ceremony begins, but a few games and matches have already begun. So what am I looking forward to?

1. Zhang Yimo’s absolutely tasteless but crazy and amazing opening ceremony. I hear he will be using his trademark of large breasted girls in weird costumes dancing around as well as thousands of lighted up performers who will run around and form symbols or what not. And there will also be pandas. Rumor has it they trained the pandas to perform Chinese martial arts. I can’t wait to see those cute animals bash each other the head with nunchucks and run each other through with spears.

2. The Long Distance Running – In Beijing, this will be the ultimate test. I mean the pollution, the heat, the humidity will all combine to truly test the endurance and stamina of the world’s finest athletes. Yes, that’s right. Long distance runners are the world’s finest athletes.

And what am I not looking forward to?

1. Seeing reports of foreigners being detained or deported for waving Free T1bet posters or doing FLG at Tiananmen Square. While I love free speech, there are certain ways to promote it tactfully. Waving a Tibetan flag at the Olympic games is like lecturing someone in a public bathroom about not wasting too much paper towels to wipe their hands.

2. Liu Xiang – Whether or not he wins or loses, I am not looking forward to the reaction afterwards. If he loses, everyone will hate on him. If he wins, that’ll just pile on even more pressure for him in the future. It’s a lose-lose situation.

But what am I looking forward to the most? Well, the end of the Olympics so everyone can just go back to their normal lives.

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Attack on Police in Xinjiang – CDT

My coworkers started talking about the threat of terrorism on May 1st. I distinctly remember them talking about how China was becoming a dangerous place. At the time, I disregarded their fears as irrational since while there was a lot of discontent, terrorism itself was rare even in Xinjiang.

Then there were all those bus bombings that some unknown terrorist organization took credit for. I dismissed that too as just some people trying to take credit for what some dude who lost all their money on the stock market did out of despair.

Now, finally, there seems to be a real attack. I guess I was wrong and the fears were justified. I’m an unemotional person, so I’m not going to rant about the evils of Islam or how this is ‘karma’ for the Chinese. This is just people wanting to get attention.

Everybody wants it. For once, all eyes are on China. The CCP leaders want to use the Olympics to show off their modernity and gain prestige. Zhang Yimo wants to create another grand ridiculous show with scantily clad dancers so that he can start directing some Hollywood movies with scantily clad white women. The Tibetans want their religious freedom or autonomy or independence. The Uigurs want the same. The dissidents are speaking up about human rights. The nationalist mobs are talking about Chinese power and defiance against the west. Everyone wants that attention.

I guess I should have expected there to be an attack, but the security and safety in Beijing blinded me to the possibilities. I mean when I had to sign in and write down my passport number to get into my own office building, it did seem a little excessive. However, now I see why they’re doing it, though I doubt a few extra security guards would be able to stop anyone determined to blow himself up.

Hopefully there won’t be any people dying at the Olympic games. Unless it’s from natural causes of course.

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