One Day To Go

Results Update: China has beaten Sweden 2-1 in the opening game of the Olympic womens soccer competition. Go China! WO AI ZHONG GUO!!! 中国加油!

Well as usual I have left it till the last possible moment, on the eve of the 2008 summer Olympics, to write on this topic, but you know what they say about it being better late than never.

On July 13th 2001, Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic games. Beijing’s win was Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka’s loss. I was living in Beijing at the time and the whole city just went wild on that Friday night in July.

Ever since then, China has been working hard to ensure that it puts on an impressive show for the rest of the world, clearly trying to prove a point. I’m not entirely sure why the Chinese are so desperate to get approval from abroad. They certainly don’t need it. The Chinese economy is growing at an enviable rate and if anything, it is the rest of the world that needs to gain favour from the Chinese in order to be part of this extraordinary growth.

Nevertheless, no expense has been spared and nothing is being left to chance. A brand new 986,000 square meter 3.8 billion dollar airport terminal (larger than London Heathrow’s 5 terminals combined and twice as big as The Pentagon!) designed by Norman Foster has been built. The city’s subway system has been significantly expanded, numerous 5 star hotels have been built and a new airport rail link has also been installed, finally!

Even the weather is being strictly controlled and experts will be on hand during the opening ceremony to ensure it doesn’t rain. If clouds dare to form over the stadium, chemicals will be fired into the clouds to “delay” the rain until after the clouds have passed.

All the unsavoury elements of life in China have been conveniently removed, including prostitutes, beggars, street vendors and Tibetans. Even in Shanghai, which will host some Olympic events, most of the DVD stores selling pirated copies of western movies and tv shows have been forced to shut down, or at least to move to a back room. Bars have had restrictions on their opening hours, the many “health sex shops” have had to remove any English signage which might embarrass foreign visitors (Chinese is okay though because obviously no foreigners can read Chinese!). Just as it was during the SARS crisis, people have been encouraged not to spit (a common habit in China), previously blocked internet sites (like Wikipedia) have been unblocked (at least until the Olympics are over).

To me, this is a common Chinese solution. Rather than actually trying to improve things, just hide everything under the carpet, so everything appears to be squeaky clean. (They famously spray painted brown grass to make it look more green when Olympic inspectors came to evaluate Beijing’s bid for the Olympics in 2001.)

And of course, security has been stepped up everywhere to counter the terrorist threat from Xinjiang sepratists and Tibetans who want to spoil the party. Even ordering products on Taobao, China’s answer to eBay, is not possible if the seller is in Beijing, as they are bizarely not permitted to ship out of the city.

Visas for foreign visitors has been severely restricted and that has had a very negative impact on businesses of course. It’s also meant that the many newly built hotels in Beijing that expected to be packed with guests paying well above the normal rates are in fact going to be half empty this August.

In short then, in an effort to make sure the event is a success, have actually already ruined the event before it’s even started. Perhaps not (yet) for the participants, but certainly for the locals and visitors who are not involved in the event, and let’s not forget the unfortunate people whose homes happened to be in locations planned for Olympic sites who then were forced to move and their homes demolished.

Let’s hope when the event gets underway, things will run well and run smoothly. I will of course be reporting on the even over the next few weeks, at least until I lose interest, which could be as soon as the opening ceremony, but let’s see shall we. Either way, I’ll be happy when it’s all over and we can get back to the normal pre-Olympic madness lifestyle we all love.

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27 Responses to One Day To Go

  1. I’m right in the middle of much of the Olympic insanity, and all I can publicly say is that it’s much worse than you can imagine. I haven’t seen anything in the news media yet, and I wasn’t there myself, but we’ve heard some pretty crazy stories about what happened in Tianjin yesterday before the football match. There is an expression we use in America – to shoot one’s self in the foot – which seems to apply at so many levels here regarding the Games.


  2. Woaizhongguo says:

    RocketShip – Please do keep us posted as events unfold there. I’m steering well clear of Beijing but on another level I wish I could be there to experience it all. We use the same expression in England by the way.

  3. CP says:

    Latest update from Beijing: the sky is still white and can only see about one kilometre…

    Maybe Zhongguo has been jia’ing too much ‘you’, which could be causing all the pollution?

  4. wisemanofasia says:

    I have to say I wish I was anywhere else in the world other than Beijing right now. I can’t bare to be walking around this rotten city at a time when everyone should be having fun….but lets face it, fun is not allowed.
    Not only have they sold off all the spare tickets to locals that have no interest in sport, conveniently making the stadiums 75% chinese, they have also closed bars and clubs and strictly controlled what live events can take place.
    The locals are high on propaganda, slowly stretching open their rectums in order to fit their ever growing craniums up there as far the the fucking things will reach!
    Yes I am angry! Angry because, as the olympics has gotten close I have come round to the idea that CHINA SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED THE OLYMPIC GAMES!
    The games are supposed to be about sports and about a coming together of the world. Instead we have people being disallowed visas, others being deported and even more (probably ‘chinese’ people in Tibet and XJ) being detained and, almost definitely, worse.
    The chinese haven’t just shot themselves in the foot they’ve skewered themselves up the arse. I hope the international community don’t let them get away with it!

  5. Woaizhongguo says:

    Firstly can we all wish CP a happy birthday for today and hope his celebrations don’t get overshadowed by the other event happening in Beijing!

    Wiseman – Please change your name to Angryman! But you’re right, the whole spirit of the games seems to have been lost in all the confusion.

  6. HAPPY Birthday CP!

    Wiseman- I thing whoever coined the phrase “no-fun Olympics” hit the nail right on the head. From the guy staring me down when i enter the subway (did you know they closed ALL of the estimated 14,000 subway stalls in shanghai!) to increased visa restrictions that left my friends unable to visit, these “games” have been nothing but a pain in the neck. and from what i can tell everyone i work could really care less about the whole deal.

  7. CP says:

    WoAi/Matt – Thanks!

    If my chosen bar for tonight’s celebrations turns out to be closed “because of Olympic”, I will be fuming….

  8. micer says:

    wiseman – I hope it’s you who has lost in transaction rather than the other 1.3 billion people. All the best to you.

  9. CP says:


    The city appears to be following the “If you stay in bed all day, nothing bad can happen” school of thought for their security planning.

  10. Woaizhongguo says:

    Matt – That’s unbelievable. I noticed it yesterday. The loss of earnings must be horrendous.

    CP – Sorry to tell you this, but Maggie’s is closed!

    Micer – Huh?

  11. wisemanofasia says:

    micer – sorry I don’t know what you mean?

    Everyone else – yeah sorry I am just angry and frustrated because I think the whole atmosphere has been destroyed by the governments paranoia.
    I think its a real shame because China has so much it could be showing off about. Instead all its doing is making itself look really bad!

  12. Woaizhongguo says:


    What exactly are you trying to say? It’s very clear that many Chinese are also fed up with the way the Olympics is being handled, so I doubt 1.3 billion people are fully supportive of the organisation so far. Many CHINESE have lost a lot of money because of the government’s handling of the Olympics. Business such as hotels because visitors can’t get visas, other businesses forced to close during the 3 weeks or more etc.

  13. micer says:

    -_-! Apology if I didn’t make my self clear above.

    As wiseman expressed his anger towards the authorities of handling Olynpics, I was wondering how could the other 1.3 billion people living in China are enjoying themselves while someone under the same atmosphere is having no fun at all. I persumed he’s lost/isolated.

    I hope wiseman will start having fun when the games/ceremony actually kick off tomorrow. All the best to you.

  14. wisemanofasia says:

    Micer – you seem to have missed our point entirely. Its nothing to do with being isolated as you put it, its to do with the fact that the chinese governement is doing so many bad things its worried that people (even chinese people) will be upset with it and protest etc.
    So the government, scared as it is, has closed down bars and clubs and shut off the stadiums. Its also greatly favoured its own people in terms of ticket selling and made visas difficult to get.
    One World, One dream – should be ‘one chinese world, one chinese dream.’
    Did you actually read the article you linked? It basically said what I said! Or were you just too shocked at being allowed on to the BBC website to comprehend what you were reading?

  15. micer says:


    I’m sorry I didn’t read through your original comment very carefully. I meant to help when you said you were having no fun.

    The BBC link does present the same point as you stated. It is the comment section, which provides some solution to you no-fun situation, I hoped you could have had a look at.

    As you also raised the issue of government control, I think they do need a better PR team, althtough they did announce to put safety and security on its top priorty. I bet they were think – foreigners cause trouble, they gather in pubs/clubs. Let’s close pubs/clubs down and troubles will not form. Well…. at least they didn’t manage to close down restaurants.

  16. wancestyle says:

    I wish Ronaldinho can get back in shape and help Brazil to win its first Olympic gold medal.

  17. wisemanofasia says:

    Micer – what do you mean they thought Foreigners cause trouble in bars and clubs? Are you suggesting that Chinese people never cause any trouble? And that we are all evil?

  18. Woaizhongguo says:

    Wancestyle – It’s a different ball game at the Olympics. Brazil may be a strong team at the world cup but this isn’t the same thing with the limitations on age etc.

    Wiseman – Everyone knows foreigners are trouble makers, stop trying to claim otherwise!

  19. wisemanofasia says:

    I never denied anything – I just don’t think its very politically correct or friendly to say that all people not from your country are trouble makers! There’s a poster in the subway near my house that says ‘The Olympics, where the world comes to share.’ Not very true when people like Micer are claiming that we are all trouble makers! If they didn’t want us to come then they shouldn’t have asked to host the games!

  20. micer says:


    I didn’t say ALL foreigner are trouble makers. No, I didn’t say that. IOC doesn’t want the games again to become a politiccal propaganda. Beijing doesn’t want any troubles during its hosting. And most likely troubles will/has come from foreign/western ‘visitors’.

  21. wisemanofasia says:

    The ‘trouble’ you are talking about is called freedom of expression in my country, and most others for that matter!

  22. micer says:


    To Beijing, it is a trouble without a doubt, for now.

    Freedom of speech may be very well practised in UK, but has not been in China yet. I can imagine myself holding a “Free Scotland” sign in the middle of London and no one gives me a frak. Chinese people do take it very seriously when being criticized over by the west. The outcome of protesting towards China has always been angering the general Chinese public (when they start to get used to it, it will get better), little other good comes along.

    Again, comment section.

    Freedom in China can be achieved step by step, but definately not overnight. It will take decaded for the process, as the west world has shown.

  23. D says:

    it breaks my heart to see how many negative reports are out there. china is trying to work things to perfection for olympic as a proud nation, but the western reports are always about ‘olypmic proves communist party has tight control on every single detail, dictatorship!’. come on give china a break! the rest of the world needs to grow up! :(

  24. D says:

    Re ‘just hide everything under the carpet’
    this is really true thou. and the temporary solution part is not good

  25. Woaizhongguo says:

    D – I think the point is, the government has gone too far and inconvenienced too many people for the sake of the Olympics. An example is a club we were planning to go to last weekend which was forced to close because of the Olympics. It is in a basement and far away from the city centre, so there’s no reason it would bring shame to Shanghai by staying open. This is just one example. It is the CHINESE owner and CHINESE staff that lose their earnings for a whole month just because someone in the PSB decided to close them down while many other bars stay open.

  26. D says:

    woai, true. it is not unusual/unexpected.
    this is why i feel your blog captures the essence of china, its beauty and problems. the western reports usually miss the points completely.

  27. Hari says:

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    Cheers !!

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