08.15.07

Sport and life: a short commentary

Posted in 2008 Olympics at 2:53 pm by Nicole

The front page of today’s New York Times contains another article critical of China’s oversight in its toy-manufacturing industry, as well as a piece on the website about a media crackdown on false reports, which is reported to have been launched because of a report of cardboard being used to fill pork buns at a Chinese food factory. First it was scandalous, then it was said to be false, then the reporter was fined and imprisoned for a year, and now there’s a suggestion that the original report might have had merit, but the reporter was discouraged from pursuing the story.

All of this comes on the heels of a wave of one-year-till-the-Olympics stories last week about pollution and politics – and a few nice stories mixed in about the beauty of National Stadium and the readiness of the Chinese for the Games one year out, in stark contrast to where Athens was at this time in its Olympic cycle. The nice stories were, well, nice, but the bulk of the stories felt critical of China – and perhaps a little bit fearful as well.

What does all of this have to do with sport? Back to everything I’ve ever said about sportswriting – if you don’t think these stories are about life and the societies in which we live in this day and age, the writer hasn’t done her job. Only one facet of sportswriting has to do with the score and the key plays and the cute kid on the sidelines waiting to run up to Daddy or Mommy after they win the tournament, et cetera et cetera. All the rest has to do with life: embezzlement, gambling (see: NBA referee scandal); cheating, doping (see: BALCO, Chinese swimmers, every other story having to do with 2008); gender politics (see: Wimbledon prize money, circa 2007), and all the rest. Sport is life looked through a pair of glasses that are a little more fun to wear than most others. But not all of the time.

That makes the 2008 Olympics story absolutely fascinating. It also makes it messy, which is something that I know isn’t always welcome in China. A harmonious society isn’t necessarily one in which problems are openly discussed, or even acknowledged – but as several of my friends who grew up in alcoholic families can tell you, pretending things are harmonious when there’s an obvious problem to be dealt with can be devastating over the long term.

So, the CSB will continue to link to, and comment on, all manner of stories leading up to 2008. You will never read a word from a writer who loves China more or who believes in its longevity, majesty, and ability to become a true leader in the twenty-first century more than you will when you’re on this site. I love China and all of my friends there, and it’s my job to bring the entirety of China’s story to you as the Olympics approach, and afterward as well.

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