On Wednesday I was reading a piece by Rowan Callick, the China correspondent for the Australian newspaper, about massive corruption surrounding the demolition of old homes in Beijing and how the Olympics are implicated. There was also this:
"The Beijing media carries stories about residents being roughed up and worse. Recently a couple of gang members associated with a developer were convicted of murdering a woman of 62 who refused to leave her home."
At that very moment my gal Cathy Pacific started to scream in the TV room at Neihu Towers.
"Dammit," I thought, "Cathy's lost another bundle on a home shopping network scam."
But no, she'd been watching CNN, and the trigger for her fit was a video of 133 Chinese pop stars and other losers promoting the Beijing Olympics with the music video We Are Ready.
Later I saw exactly what had caused the love of my life so much distress. Amid the execrable lyrics, cheesy music and largely talentless, tone-deaf schmaltz peddlers were at least two token Taiwanese: Elva Hsiao (
And now you, dear reader, can induce a violent, sluice-splitting response by watching it online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XOkYTzMHWc.
Apart from Taiwanese pawns, there's a production budget of 19 yuan, phony We Are the World mannerisms (pushing headphones against your ears while faking emotional engagement) and, best of all, the song title is spoken in English 39 times by participants before the music even starts.
But if you can't get enough of this phrase -- either a cappella or in the song's chorus -- then despair not. You can also hear it chanted over montage footage of Chinese athletes. By the time it's over, you know what it's like to undergo thought correction in the Chinese Gulag.
Oh, and there's some of the worst haircuts seen on men since the Qing Dynasty. And I kid you not, at least one of the turkeys erecting the minimal backdrop wears military fatigues.
Cui Jian (
I was reading up on Colonfucius' (
You thought it all started at Olympia amid the pomp and majesty of Ancient Greece, didn't you? Tsk tsk.
In Colonfucius' epic poem Five Rings of Fire, a contest is referred to in the region of present-day Xi'an during the Western Zhou Dynasty (predating the Hellenes' efforts by several centuries) in which criminals would be immobilized in five interlocking rings and have their nether orifices violated with wooden objects from various distances by the most accomplished archers, swordsmen and courtesans in the land.
The basic idea was to land the objects in their unmentionables in some spectacular fashion with the least amount of splash -- all for the entertainment of the imperial court and several thousand onlookers.
Colonfucius, ever-haughty, calls the games single-minded, but he approvingly points out how much Chinese culture came to owe the flexible responses of criminal sphincters -- and that they helped to drive an understanding of physiology in Chinese medical circles.
But back to the present. I can barely contain my excitement at the carnival of kitsch that we're going to be served at Beijing 2008. Now that Steven Spielberg is reeling from The Wrath Of Farrow and backing away from the event over Darfur (Tibet didn't register on the Spielberg Holocaustometer), expect to see Chinese director Zhang Yimou (
The opening ceremony, rumor has it, boasts a cast of tens of thousands and a narrative that combines every one of his movies that starred Gong Li (
China's Rise is somewhere in there, apparently.
But there's more to this Olympics than many have been letting on. Here's a preview of some of the events -- with Chinese characteristics, naturally.
1. Javelin: There is a stupid rumor that Chinese competitors are rigging their javelins with explosives to make a big crater on impact. This makes no sense to me, because the length of the throw would be measured from the rear of the crater, thus defeating its purpose. I can confirm, however, that the aerodynamics of the javelins are based on technology stolen from the US military.
2. Shooting: Falun Gong practitioners will have their faces painted with targets before being propped up on the rifle range. For the trap shooters, organs and limbs harvested from transients who refuse to leave Beijing during the Games will be slung into the air -- making for a glorious spectacle of crimson dismemberment.
3. Marathon: Japan's runners may be in danger. Chinese ultranationalists have raided the ruins of Japan's World War II-era Unit 731 biological weapons laboratory near Shenyang for bricks to hurl at them as they pound down the road. Being China, you will also be able to buy fake Unit 731 bricks along the route to throw at the Sons and Daughters of Nippon as they try to retake the capital. Frenzied Children of the Dragon must ensure they don't buy plaster of Paris bricks, lest they miss out on a chance to crush a Japanese skull and avenge the Rape of Nanking.
4. 100 meter sprint: Forget doping. The real action is in spotting Chinese athletes with nanotechnological tubes feeding oxygen into their mouths and noses. Others will be left choking and reeling in the carbon monoxide/soot particle soup that is a Beijing breeze.
5. Gymnastics: The demonstration sport this year should be a real draw for China's faux middle class of entrepreneurs: uneven bars for children who are too young to walk. China and a few former Soviet states are expected to excel, but I can't point out any of the favorites because some haven't been born and the others haven't been given names yet.
6. Shot Put: This event will be held on a plot of land formerly home to several hundred Beijingers who had their vintage houses demolished. Because it won't be ready in time for the Games, the uneven field will not be marked with chalk. Instead, former residents who protested the demolition will be chained to the rubble and painted different colors according to the distance from the circle. In a quirk that fuses pinball with the Terracotta Warriors, competitors who hit an ex-tenant-cum-distance marker on the head with the shot will receive bonus points and a complimentary trip to the Great Wall at Juyongguan.
7. Swimming: An extra event will be included this year: It's like solo synchronized swimming (if that makes sense), but it does involve laps of the pool. Competitors must present an interpretation of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) bathing at Beidaihe while reciting the classic fourth chapter from his 1938 opus Problems of Strategy in the Guerrilla War Against Japan entitled "Initiative, Flexibility and Planning in Conducting Offensives Within the Defensive, Battles of Quick Decision Within Protracted War, and Exterior-Line Operations Within Interior-Line Operations."
Recitations must be in Hunan-accented Mandarin, which might rule out some athletes (Sudanese swimmers are exempt, however).
8. 100 meter hurdles: Pretty much as normal, except that athletes from Taiwan and Taiwan's diplomatic allies will be electrocuted if they graze the hurdle. Ouch!
9. Rowing: To appease its national minorities, the Chinese government has secured a promise from the International Olympic Committee to include a new race in this sport: the coxless 55. That's right, one rower from each minority (including one Gaoshan delegate covering Taiwan's Aborigines, though I hear he's just a swarthier-than-usual Han from Shanghai in a headdress clutching a kitchen knife). Apparently there's only one entry for this event.
10. Paralympics: Always a moving and exciting part of Olympics season, the Paralympics will once again feature no Chinese athletes, because, as we are told, the government thinks it is in the national interest to take the "Han" out of "Handicapped."
Some compelling sports action is on the way. In the meantime, might I suggest to the family of the woman who was killed by those developers' thugs that they try to recover some of the funeral costs? Send a letter to a man who, by his ineffectual words, has exacerbated this barely constrained ultracapitalist thuggery. His details:
International Olympic Committee
Chateau De Vidy
Case Postale 356
1007 Lausanne, Switzerland
But don't expect Monsieur Rogge to pay up any time soon. First you should expect to see him standing at a podium, his voice trembling as he reaches into his suit pants, flops out the sloop and makes vigorous hand movements, then finally moaning: "One World, One Dream, these were the best ... Games ... ever."
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.