Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sleight of hand

There's a lot of complaining going on about the Beijing Olympics. Since the Opening Ceremony, many have been outraged to learn that some of the fireworks in the television presentation were computer generated. Even more are up in arms over a nine-year-old lip-syncing to the voice of a seven-year-old.

A question for those who are angered by these events: Exactly how big is that rock that you've been under the last twenty years?

Computer generated images and lip-syncing have become staples of big-stage presentations. In the internet age where everyone is a critic, event organizers can't take chances on firework duds or child performers. Instead, they have to play it safe with computers and pre-recorded soundtracks, the smoke and mirrors of our modern world. Any talk of the "fake" Opening Ceremony being non-compliant with the Olympic Spirit is nonsense. The only mistake the Chinese officials made here was admitting that the real singer was replaced because she wasn't cute enough. (Who is their PR man, anyway? Why didn't they just say she was shy about performing in front of such a large audience?)

While most of the world is upset about the treatment of a future hopeful for Chinese Idol, we are missing the real issues at the Beijing Games:

  • Hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents have lost their homes over the past five years to make room for Olympic venues. (The Guardian, New York Times)

  • Peaceful protests have been suppressed. Three protest zones were set up by the government, but no one has actually been allowed to make use of them. Questions regarding this situation by foreign reporters have been ignored. (The Guardian)

  • Despite assurances of media freedom, foreign journalists have been harassed by the police. At least one was arrested while attempting to cover a Free Tibet protest. (The Guardian) When questioned on these tactics, Chinese and IOC officials avoided giving a straight answer, later canceling daily press conferences to avoid the questions altogether. (Sydney Morning Herald) All media personnel were also inexplicably photographed by the Chinese officials after the press conference confrontation.

Thus far, these serious concerns are getting very little attention from Olympic viewers around the world. I'm not opposed to China hosting the Olympics, but I am opposed to human rights violations and government disinformation. I enjoyed the Opening Ceremony, with its portrayal of Chinese history and culture. I enjoyed seeing athletes from around the world enter the stadium, walking proud and tall. But the greater issues over the past few days have taken the thrill out of these Games for me, and I find it even more disturbing that it appears most people aren't even paying attention to it. As with any good movie, the majority of the general public is more concerned with the special effects in Beijing than looking for what is real.

1 comment:

rus said...

The journalist said that China is facing new questions. The problem is they aren't facing new questions, especially not from NBC who is evidently afraid of getting kicked out of the country. Only a few journalist are asking the questions and they aren't getting alot of attention. Did we really think China would miraculously open up and give the media full access? This is what totalitarian governments do: put on big shows for the Olympics (Berlin '36), hide dissidents (Moscow '80), etc. Another question is will the next winter Olympics be in Russia like scheduled? If so, we'll more great coverage about how wonderful Russian society is.