Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
This was supposed to be posted in the “Olympic season” but better late than never.
I think any study that starts with the central assumption that there is some great tangible genetic difference between a “black” or “white” person is bound to leave out other possible socio-cultural, geographical or evolutionary biology explanations. I have friends and family who tend to believe that “blacks are faster and stronger” due to the high concentration of successful black track and field athletes (and all ‘Asians’ are smart and good at math and so on) and the mainstream media does not help to question such beliefs and binary modes of thinking. This is dangerous since it serves to cement a ‘difference’ between ‘racial’ groups that does not exist.
Race is socially-constructed, hence there has to be an alternate explanation for why a certain ‘racial’ group seemingly performs better. All things being equal, there is more genetic variation between two people of different heights than between someone with dark skin as opposed to someone with fair skin. Inputs and other studies welcome — I think this merits further research on my part post-exams. Enjoy the read (full article here):
In the last three decades, athletics, like all sports, has become more and more globalised. Athletes from many small countries are participating in international competitions, and technologies are more freely accessible, although at steep costs. In this levelling of the playing field, the rise of black power has stunned the world once used to seeing only whites on the podium. What is behind this polarization? Is it in the genes or is it the desire to win?
It has come under huge scrutiny by scientists and sociologists in the past decade. Over 200 scientific studies have been carried out and many more are going on. The association of skin colour with a genetic structure suited for athletics has not been established. This is more so because among the black athletes, there are two very distinct categories — those from East Africa, who dominate long distance running, and those of West African ancestry who dominate sprints.Most athletes from the Caribbean and North America belong to the latter category as their ancestors were taken to the New World as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries. The average West African weighs 30kg more than average East Africans, who are small with thin legs and arms.
(Image Source – Times of India – Click to Enlarge)
The 2008 Beijing Olympics are over. The winner is China and mass consumption and among the losers are the actual rural and migrant workers of China, the ones doing the clean-up and well, us for watching the capitalist and nationalist spectacle.
I covered the high point of the event for me (here and here), some of the things I could not tolerate and some that left me with ambigious feelings. And shockingly, none of it involves women’s beach volleyball!
Times of India printed a TOP 10 Moments of the Olympics and Olympic Factfile that can be accessed in actual newsprint format here — Obviously I use Times of India as an unbiased source given how many in American media and blogosphere were whining about scores and medals. But feel free to give your own views.
USAIN BOLT breaks the 100 metres world record. Bolt already owned the record and in front of a packed Bird’s Nest stadium he ran 9.69 seconds. He thumped his chest in triumph over the last few
metres before his ‘marksman’ celebration which became one of the lasting images of the Games.
The IOC is threatening Pirate Bay for allowing users to share (upload and download) videos of the Beijing Olympics and is especially concerned that videos of the Closing Ceremony would be up shortly after the event.
If IOC thinks it can prevent technologically-equipped people from catching highlights of the Olympics by launching threats at top torrent sites, it should think again. Just by filing a complaint with the Swedish government–the country where Piratebay is based–it has alerted thousands more people to the availability of Olympics coverage on the web. BRAVO!
For millions of people in the world, the only [affordable and convenient] way to watch the Beijing games is via the web. And Youtube has not been friendly about this, erasing even 30 second videos of the games (although it did stand up to the IOC regarding protest videos by Students for a Free Tibet – Why would the IOC file a DMCA claim against this anyway)? This censorship is directly contrary to the spirit of the Olympic games that supposedly reflect unity and our mutual inter-relatedness, the five rings signifying the five different continents. Online file-sharing only helps to promote that but of course the IOC is more concerned with making money through licensing.
In light of the censorship on popular sites like Youtube, sports fans have turned to torrent sites like Piratebay, Mininova and Demonoid. And even if you get NBC coverage in America that is poor and substandard with unbearable commercial breaks, you are better off watching coverage on Eurosport than tolerating the sour, judgmental, Phelps-obsessed American commentators.
You can show your support for Piratebay here.
While you are at it, check out this related post.
I mentioned earlier that the computer-generated 55-second video footage of giant fireworks on film at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was pure simulacrum–with no relation to ‘reality.’ It turns out that there was more “staging” than meets the eye at the 2008 Beijing games.
First, a 9-year old lip-synced the song “Ode to the Motherland” because the original singer was not considered pretty enough.
Then, we had reports of a pre-recorded “live” fireworks display as aforementioned.
Chinese officials also admitted to deploying cheer squads (legions of spectators wearing matching yellow shirts) to ‘create’ atmosphere and hide the empty seats. (Why were there empty seats at this major world spectacle? We will come back to this point soon).
Now Beijing officials are admitting that children dressed in different ethnic costumes in China who carried the Chinese flag were not actually from those ethnic groups.
And all the while, the CCP has cracked down on Olympics piracy–the sale of ‘inauthentic’ Olympic gear. In order to move away from the perception of China as a “low class pirating country” according to CNN,
On April 26, World Intellectual Property Day, cities across China demonstrated the country’s commitment to quashing piracy by staging public exhibitions and destroying pirated goods.
This is the essence of hyper-reality, the fake crackdowns on pirated goods (the brand names also representative of nothing) to allude to a China that is indeed unreal; it does not exist.
Maybe these reports do not bother average viewers who understand that they are consuming images that are not necessarily representative of reality. And this post is by no means condemning China for “faking” the Olympics–that would be far too juvenile and hypocritical and I will leave that to the Orientalists and hate-mongers.
In ‘postmodern’ society, the simulated copy has preceded the real and while I am not asserting like Jean Baudrillard did that “the real no longer exists,” I do hold that the mass profusion of images for consumption–the systemic act of the manipulation of signs–play a major role in masking and convoluting our perceptions of reality.
The most disturbing part of the Olympic spectacle does not have to do with the 55 second CGI, lip-synching or child actors; it has little to do with the spectacularly grand banquet of scrolls, drums, processions, songs and dances that were supposed to reflect 5000 years of Chinese civilization. This hyper-reality and idealized transposition blanketed the ‘real’ people of China, the people that would ideally occupy those empty seats, the ones in rural areas who would never even see the games but have their land taken away in an attempt to create the facade, those that toiled behind the scenes to make these Olympics a success, the ‘undesirables’ that China was all too eager to eliminate from the screens before the games begun even while appearing to extoll the values of its own historical laboring past and present during the staged simulation.
The migrant laborers that toiled hard with little-to-no legal and health protections, and built the Bird’s Nest are nowhere to be seen. They came, they built, and they left knowing that they would never have access to the amazing sites that they have put together, that the world may never recognize their amazing feats and reward them with medals. After all, we are glued to our screens watching and applauding people running, swimming, cycling and jumping for medals, sponsorships, and fame. But the true achievers are the migrant workers, the unsung heroes who made these games possible.
Read More …
The Times of India reports:
BEIJING: In a perfect world, Raj Bhavsar should have won an Olympic medal for India. Instead, the gymnast did America proud in Beijing. The 28-year-old Houston lad, born to Gujarati parents Bob and Sue, was part of the sixmember American men’s team which won the bronze medal in artistic gymnastics in the Beijing Olympics here yesterday.
Bhavsar thus became the second Indo-American gymnast, after Mohini Bhardwaj, to win an Olympic medal. Mohini was part of the American women’s team which won a silver in Athens. Bhavsar proved third time lucky after twice coming close to make it to the Olympic team in Sydney and Athens. It was only a fortnight ago that he got a call-up to fill the void created by Paul Hamm’s injury and Bhavsar finally had his day under the sun yesterday.
“I’M SO grateful to everyone. This has been a fairytale. This medal represents the heart and soul of the team. No one thought we could win a medal together but deep down, we knew we could do it. This makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
“Personally, I exceeded my own expectations and I think the team did so as well,” he gushed. PTI
A minor correction in the article–Alexi Grewal is the other Indian-American to have won a medal at the Olympics. Congratulations to Raj Bhavsar; I actually did see him perform and he kept American hopes alive where others fell short–a great team player.