04.18.06

Today’s News

Posted in News at 3:36 pm by Nicole

No spitting, no cutting in line, and follow those traffic laws: If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing Beijing twenty-eight months out from the 2008 Olympics, look no further than this article from yesterday’s Edmonton Journal. The author was part of a recent press tour to Beijing’s Olympic venue sites and lays out in great detail the changes Beijing is attempting to adopt in order to show the world its best face. In addition to the obvious things, like finishing venues in time for test events to be run before the Olympics, there are the subtleties, like discouraging public spitting and traffic violations.

(You haven’t seen traffic violations until you’ve seen China, a place where we affectionately say that streetlights and road markings are mere suggestions. Today, my bus in Shantou ran a red light by passing the several cars and motorbikes stopped at the light on the left-hand side…that is, by passing into the lane reserved for oncoming traffic.)

It’s hard to know what it will take to change a culture – even if only for the two weeks of the Olympics – but word on the street is that the Chinese government will do everything in its power to showcase Beijing. Prison sentences for public spitters? Who knows, but based on what China is capable of doing when it wants to accomplish something, I wouldn’t put it past them.

Chinese golfers missing the cut: An article from Slam! Sports in Canada underscores the irony now being seen in China’s push to host major international sports events. The reality is that there are very few Chinese athletes who can keep pace with the rest of the world. Case in point: the China Open golf tournament, which just wrapped up in Beijing. Only one mainland Chinese player made the cut. It will probably be quite a while before China sees great professional sports success. The Olympics will be a different story, because the Olympics are the lifeblood of Chinese athletic development. My feeling is that when the official priorities change – when it’s acceptable to develop athletes who are allowed to succeed in Western terms, not just collect gold medals for China – the success rate of Chinese athletes in mainstream professional sports events will increase as well.

In Other News: Steven Spielberg will advise Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise The Red Lantern) on the design of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics. Football team Chelsea has extended an offer to the Chinese national football squad to provide training facilities for them ahead of 2008.

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