China well-versed in controlling flow of information. Lost amongst the amazing feats and sights of these Beijing games is a sad reality – China is still nowhere close to being a free and open society. In addition to the above reports of interfering with the press, there are also reports of the government arresting people who tried to apply to protest in Beijing. Just some of the lowlights:
In what the Guardian is calling “the clearest breach yet of the host nation’s promise of free media access during the Games,” Independent Television News journalist John Ray was detained as he attempted to cover a Free Tibet protest close to the main Olympic zone. Ray was dragged along the ground and forcibly restrained for about 20 minutes.
Virtually ignored in China, there was a great deal of attention paid in the U.S. press when President Bush attended church in Beijing. There has been little coverage anywhere that Hua Huiqi, the head of an unrecognized Protestant church, was arrested while on his way to the same church service that Bush attended.
The official Xinhua News Agency said all the applications were withdrawn, suspended or rejected. Rights groups and relatives have said some applicants were immediately taken away by security agents after applying to hold a rally, prompting critics to accuse officials of using the plan as a trap to draw potential protesters to their attention.
What’s sad and shameful is NBC hasn’t covered any of these events in its primetime coverage, instead holding up Mary Carillo’s video postcards as their vision of China. I have been drawn in by the spectacle and wonder of the Chinese culture as I’ve watched these Games too, but its important to remember we’re seeing China as their government wants them to see it. I hope at some point we can get a more objective reports from China.
Update: The New York Times has a story on one of the detained protesters this afternoon.
NY Times: Unforgiving Nature of Games Personified by Hansen. A nice feature on Brendan Hansen, a local Olympian who failed in his attempt for an individual medal in the 100m breaststroke last night. It also includes mentions of one of my favorite places in the world – Karakung Swim Club. Hansen makes a good point in reflecting on his career:
“In the United States, we raise the bar so high on ourselves,” Hansen said. Then, referring to Michael Phelps, he added, “Now to even be noticed, you’ve got to win eight gold medals… You don’t know how hard it is to get on the blocks and do what he’s doing.”
Hansen’s Olympic career is typically viewed as a disappointment, because he could never win an individual gold. However with 3 medals in Athens (gold, silver, and bronze), he was one of the top 20 medalists in those games. Back then I was cynical about Hansen and Phelps, taking a little pleasure when they both failed to reach their lofty expectations. This time around though I’m really into it – I was throwing things when Hansen lost and I was jumping up and down when Phelps’ 4×100 relay won. It’s been a great Olympics so far, hope it keeps up.
Warning: This post is slightly sentimental and self-congratulatory. Please forgive.
Bringing a nation’s dream to fruition was one of the many themes on display in tonight’s (this morning’s actually) Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing. Since July 13, 2001, millions of Chinese have waited for this moment when the world’s eyes would be focused on the Olympic Games in their nation. The artistic and technological achievements that went into tonight’s ceremonies are astounding and certainly something for the Chinese people to be proud of. I’m even more excited for these Games now, after that performance.
I thought it was worth noting that tonight also brings to fruition my own Olympic dream. In the fall of 1999, two year’s before the IOC awarded Beijing the 2008 games, I was a 14-year-old novice Web developer. I noticed a request for volunteers on the official Sydney 2000 Olympics site, which included positions on their Web site. So I naively sent them my name and a link to my Web site at the time, Steve Online. Unfortunately, the organizers needed applicants who were at least 18 years old and lived in Austrailia. They did send me a very thoughtful e-mail though, saying they liked my Web site and encouraging me to continue with Web development.
I forgot about the whole episode until I discovered a printout of the e-mail while cleaning my bedroom last summer. Eight years later, I was getting ready to move to Bristol, CT to work on ESPN.com. Now I’m a 23-year-old professional Web developer and I had a principal role in building our Beijing 2008 Olympics section. I did it with the support of a number of other developers and designers as well as ESPN’s army of writers, editors, and photographers. I think the final result is something we can all be very proud of and it appears to be resonating with our fans.
It’s been a grueling month and a half of work for me, including a lot of stressful days and crazy hours. I came home tonight feeling mentally and physically exhausted, as if I was actually competing in the Olympics rather than covering them. And the Game are only began tonight, so there will be more to do in the days ahead. So its nice to remember that as a boy 9 years ago, I dreamt of doing exactly what I’m doing right now. Its little things like that which make me realize how blessed I am. Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way.