The Beijing Olympics: People’s Power Triumphs

8-20-08, 9:47 am

Original source: The Guardian (Australia)

The curtain will come down on the Beijing Olympics on August 24. The Paralympics will then commence. When they conclude the world will be left to consider the full impact of the Games – the spectacle, the competition, the reputation of the host country in light of what has taken place during the weeks of awe-inspiring televised sporting performances. With the games of the XXIX Olympiad, by any measure, the People’s Republic of China has shown that its growing international prestige is no illusion. The people of this vast developing country have stood up and everybody, whether friend or foe, is taking note.

It was never going to be easy for China or Beijing to host the Olympics. When the bid process for the hosting of the Sydney 2000 games was kicked off in earnest, rival bidders set up secretly funded offices to undermine the impressive Chinese campaign. The environment, the presumed lack of infrastructure and, above all, human rights issues were to be honed in on. Sydney and Athens (for example) were never subjected to the glare of this spotlight. China was 'different' – it was a socialist country putting its hand up to host the games. The last time this had happened was in Moscow in 1980 with a US-led boycott by 60 allied and dependent countries.

The anti-China bid campaign came to nought but the Games were then viewed in some quarters as an opportunity to stir trouble – and hopefully calamitous trouble – for the People’s Republic. Tibet was thought to be the issue to cause the Beijing games to degenerate into a shambles and a public relations disaster. Carefully nurtured networks around the world were called upon to disrupt the traditional parading of the Olympic torch. Frustration on the part of anti-China interests grew as the often-violent 'pro-Tibet' protesters were exposed as phony risk-taking agents of undisclosed sponsors: not pro-Tibet but anti-China.

The Tibet card was not only played along the route of the Olympic torch. In Tibet itself a wave of orchestrated violence was unleashed which claimed the lives of scores of ordinary citizens. A push was organized in the Xinjang Uygur Autonomous Region also. Death and disruption were visited on the people of those lands usually of scant interest to the capitalist media. There was consternation that this meddling was not welcomed. A new, presumed irrational and unexpected enemy was then identified – Chinese patriotism.

Protests involving thousands of students in Australia and elsewhere were dismissed as being 'officially sponsored.' The offended Chinese students were deemed to be the victims of decades of Communist indoctrination and still immune from the appeals to reason from the academic community in Australia.

The games themselves have been a disappointment from the ill-wisher’s point of view. The atmosphere (i.e. the air) in Beijing has not proven to be hazardous at all. Records have tumbled. Benchmarks like that of US swimmer Michael Phelps have been established and seem set to stand for some time. The women’s marathon was run last weekend and passed without any of the anticipated life-threatening incidents. Background shots for daily news reports show distressingly bright and clear images of the spectacular new Bird’s Nest national stadium.

Nevertheless, people in Australia have responded in significant numbers to the cue to bag the Beijing Olympics. They have been swayed by the reports designed to detract from the impact of the outstanding opening ceremony – the petty controversies about the computer-generated images of fireworks and the (far from unique) lip-synched performance of a young songstress during the amazing curtain raiser. The detractors are far outnumbered by the people standing in awe of the technical expertise of this newly emerged economic powerhouse.

Chinese authorities have been put in a 'damned if you do, damned if you don’t' bind regarding security during their hosting of the games. Dramatic attempts to disrupt the games have been met by appropriate measures. These steps have then been turned against the organizers for having 'killed' the atmosphere of certain events like the cycling road race. Early on the efforts by a Korean film crew to gate crash the dress rehearsals of the opening event were trotted out as evidence of alleged Chinese incompetence in the face of very real terrorist threats. Measures seen as reasonable to protect guests during events like the meeting of APEC leaders in Sydney are presented as heavy handed and even sinister in Beijing.

But they were all to no avail.

The peoples of the world have witnessed the hosting of the Olympic Games in a developing country as a great triumph of organization and international cooperation. The Games that belong to the world went ahead driven by unstoppable people power, leaving the sneering disapproval of the anti-communist propaganda campaign in its wake.