It’s finally upon us. Every four years the countries of the world put aside their differences (sort of) and get together in an overwhelming display of unity and competition. The Olympics are always a spectacle, and over the years have played host to some of the most dramatic moments in human history both on the fields of play and off. There have been boycotts, world records, kidnappings, improbable upsets, doping scandals and athletes battling through unrivaled hardships (be they physical or socio-political) to achieve feats so amazing that they seem almost super human. This year, as you probably should know, the Summer Olympics will take place in the Chinese capital of Beijing, and I predict it will be the most awe-inspiring event mankind has ever seen.
Over seven years ago, in July 2001, Beijing beat out the short list of candidates that included Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka to become the host city for this year’s summer games. Since then, the world has pretty much gone to hell: 9/11 happened, two wars broke out and Bush was somehow re-elected; catastrophic earthquakes, fires and hurricanes/cyclones seemed to act as harbingers for an impending climate crisis; greedy lenders and rising oil prices have led the world near the brink of economic disaster; Arrested Development got canceled. Like I said: It’s all gone to hell.
And then there’s China. As wealthy western capitalist nations struggle through their doldrums, communist China has seen remarkable growth in that time, economically speaking. The country has become one of the world’s most prosperous nations, and starting Aug. 8, it will shake its moneymaker for the world to see.
Like any burgeoning super power, China has had its growing pains. Its humanitarian record is as dirty as Beijing’s polluted air. Since the announcement that this year’s Olympics would take place in Beijing, the world community has been up in arms in disapproval, thanks in large part to the Chinese government’s handling of Tibet and its seemingly flippant disregard for its own citizens. You may remember that when the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco in April that it’s route had to be secretly bypassed in order to avoid the throngs of angry protesters.
So much for bringing the world together—though I guess you could make a case that it is at the very least united against China. Sure, the country has its shady side, but they’re not the only government who does shitty things to people. I’m sure there are 200,000 Calfornia state employees who might agree.
The stage is set. The proper political intrigue is in place. The drama of the games themselves is a given. But both these aspects don’t really differentiate the Beijing Olympics from the many that have come before. Why will this one be so much more spectacular? China has a lot to prove, and it wants you to know it means business. Billions of dollars have been invested in aggressive environmental policies to reduce pollution and make this the greenest Olympics ever. A weather drill has been constructed to disperse clouds so that rain won’t threaten the competitions. If that wasn’t enough, China has also deployed the Fashion police, because if you’re going to plan an event to stake your claim as the world’s new supreme power, you’d better look good doing it.
According to an article on Telegraph.co.uk, the Capital Spiritual Civilisation Construction Commission has handed out 36-page booklets on how Beijing’s 15 million residents should behave and what they should wear. According to the guidelines, men shouldn’t wear pajamas in public, nor should they prance about with a bare chest and rolled up trousers. Women must adhere to more stringent specifications. They should be mindful of their age-to-skirt-length ratio, not wear outfits that contain more than three colors, and, if they have thick ankles, then they should wear dark stockings to mask the problem (I wonder what the Chinese character for “cankles” is). The booklet also contains words of fashion wisdom such as, “Clothes should not be too small, otherwise this makes people feel you are unreliable.”
No matter how you feel about China’s politics, you have to at least admire its ingenuity.