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Beijing Olympics: Grand Theatre Despite Human Rights Problems

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I'm a sap. I admit it. I watched much of the Beijing Olympics and loved it – starting with the utterly amazing opening ceremonies through this evening's closing which had its own flabbergasting moments. In between were several fantastic competitions; incredible team and individual performances.

Dave Nalle's recent article about the suppression of the press and human rights issues in China pointed up just how far away the country is from being an even remotely free society. There are a number of comments in response, including some written by yours truly charging that the International Olympic Committee was at best remiss in awarding the games to Beijing. It has been made clear that China really was not ready in many respects to host this type of high profile event. The cost of doing so was very high. Not just in yuan, but in the heavy cost to the people in ways too numerable to count.

One or more commenters noted that they had not watched any of the Olympics. If one has no interest in such events, then a decision not to be a spectator is of no consequence. I would say that if the reason for such a decision was mainly political, that is a disservice to the American team and other athletes as well – even China's, many of whom proved to be the best at what they do.

At the very least, the Olympics always provide splendid theatre. In that regard, Beijing did not disappoint. Elements of both the opening and closing ceremonies at times defied belief. Literally thousands of performers worked for months, perhaps years to execute dazzlingly precision choreography – much of it seemingly death defying.

With a few notable exceptions the sporting events were carried out without significant problems. The venues, especially the "Bird's Nest" and the "Water Cube", are incredible feats of design and engineering and a wonder to behold. To a man and woman, the Chinese people rightly have a great deal to be proud of.

Here in the U.S., we also should be extremely proud of our athletes, starting of course with Michael Phelps and his absolutely mind boggling performance,  continuing to the gold medal winning women's gymnasts, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson who pretty much captured the hearts of anyone who watched them, and on to dozens of other outstanding performances by dozens of athletes performing in a variety of disciplines.

And then, there was Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, who simply annihilated the record books as if it was a day at the beach.

I always find it sad when, near the end of the closing ceremonies, the olympic flame is extinguished. It marks the end of one of the few significant public events in which most of the world takes part. The olympics – both summer and winter – serve as an earmark for time gone by. I am now four years older since the Athens Olympics; going on 2 years since the winter games at Torino.

I know that it's a total fallacy to believe that politics are NOT involved in the olympics. But, the ideal is just that. For the most part, the athletes live up to that ideal giving little if any consideration to anything outside their own performances, as it should be.

That given, and for that reason, I do in fact look forward to the winter games in Vancouver and the next edition of summer olympic theatre in London.

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About Baritone

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/39420/joanne_huspek.html Joanne Huspek

    It’s too bad about the controversy over the age of China’s gymnasts, and I had thought that was unusual, until I spoke with my sister, who was once a competing gymnast. This was many, many years ago, and she related that this kind of “age progression” has been going on forever.

    I agree with you that the Olympics are grand theatre. Of course, I’m in awe of anyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time, much less perform feats of this caliber.

    :-)

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I’m definitely with you on the “walk and chew gum” issue. I have a pretty bad set of arthritic knees. If I manage to get out of a chair without falling back, I have an urge to throw my arms up like I just stuck a landing off the vault.

    Age and scoring issues have long been a problem in gymnastics (and figure skating as well.) The subjective nature of the scoring is maddening and its sometimes apparent lack of honesty is a horrendous disservice to the competiters. I guess they have to learn early the hard lesson that things are not always as others would have them believe. Politics and outright cheating abound as there are people banking on certain outcomes for reasons other than gold medals.

    B

  • Condor

    The archery was cool and the ping pong, and the weight lifting. I also like track and field… but didn’t get to see any.

    In minds eye, I envision an olympics returning to the days of lore… some akin to what the Greeks did…. track and field events.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    A vain hope, Condor. The Olympics is a big business. My god, China put out a reported 40 billion dollars to pull off the Beijing games.

    As I noted, I loved watching the spectacle, but was constantly aware of what it cost many of Beijing’s people – people whose homes and businesses were torn down, etc.

    B

  • Arch Conservative

    Give it time and we will get there ourselves B-tone.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Arch,

    Great Zeus! I hope you are wrong, but you may well be right correct.

    Dan(Miller)