Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Journey of Harmony Falling Apart

The Olympic torch relay isn't going as planned and Beijing Olympic organizing officials are wondering why people aren't welcoming the sacred flame with open arms.

When the torch was handed over to a Chinese official in Athens, protestors tried to mar the historic event. And ever since then the torch has had a hard time staying lit.

One friend who saw the TV coverage of the Paris leg in a hotel room here said he saw the flame extinguished five times.

When you have to extinguish the flame more than once in a torch relay that's meant to create excitement rather than anger, then something's not quite right.

International Olympic Committee officials are mulling over cutting short the relay and even cancelling it for London's 2012 Games.

But Beijing Olympic officials are adamant the torch relay will continue.

"No force can stop the torch relay of the Olympic Games," said BOCOG spokesman Sun Weide. "We are confident the torch relay of the Beijing Olympic Games will succeed."

And BOCOG is doing all it can to ensure the torch's safety.

A phalanx of security men in blue and white tracksuits surround the torch runner and like football players, try to block anyone who tries to get close to the flame. One torch runner from London complained these security guards were rude to her, barking orders at her to stop or go, or lift the torch higher.

How is that in the spirit of the Games?

Meanwhile the Chinese government is still continuing its attack on the Dalai Lama, calling him more names and claiming it has evidence His Holiness started the March 14 riots, but producing nothing.

Public opinion outside China about the Chinese handling of the Tibet issue will not change. Beijing should really have extended an invitation to the Dalai Lama for talks before the torch relay, even before the 49th anniversary of China's takeover of Tibet. That would have cooled tempers and possibly signaled the Chinese government's concerted effort in creating a harmonious society.

But instead they continue to call the Dalai Lama "a wolf in monk's clothing", blaming the riots on the Dalai Lama clique and splittists. The situation is so polarized now that the government has painted itself into a corner. Now any reconciliation gesture would be seen as a PR stunt rather than a genuine one.

So the protests will continue wherever the torch goes and will continue for the next 121 days.

The news coverage here tried to avoid mentioning any disruption by protestors, but now domestic media outlets can't avoid it, otherwise the column inches get shorter and the pictures fewer. If it's such a fantastic event, why isn't more written about it, or why aren't there more photos of the triumphant event?

The government is spinning the story, blaming the protests on Tibetan splittists. But this only stokes the anger at home, creating an even greater distrust of foreign media and foreigners.

Instead of creating harmony, the Olympic torch has become a traveling symbol of China that gives people the perfect opportunity to express their anger at what they believe is a repressive authoritarian state.

So much for not politicizing the Games. But for the Chinese, the show will go on, one way or another.


Anonymous said...

I heard something very shocking today. A Chinese individual was asked what she tought of Tibetan issue. She responded by stating that over half of the Chinese tax money was spent to improve living standard in Tibet, such as the new rail road and "allowing" foreign visitors to enter Tibet which brought much needed tourism revenue.

Wasn't the rail road used to bring troops in to crush the uprising? With its natrual beauties more westerners would visit if it weren't for the visa requirement I am sure. With the media in firm control of government's hand people are being fed lies and propaganda. Has anything changed in the last 20 years?

While Beijing is trying to show rest of the world what it has accomplished by hosting the Olympics all it got was egg on its face even before the game. Rest of the world should not sit idle while Beijing go about as nothing has happened. Boycott of the opeing event should send a clear message of disapproval while not violating the spirit of Olympics. United States boycott (under President Jimmy Carter) to participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics, held in Moscow that year (to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan) wasn't that long ago.

Airchild said...

An excellent analysis you have written! The show will indeed go on. But it wouldn't hurt if the two sides meet somewhere in the middle.