Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
(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.
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 …
I see the Olympics as the single-most unifying sports regular sports events. And today, I felt the unity across the globe, emitting from the rich and unique Indian disapora.
Headlines Today, NDTV and all Indian news channels are going wild with their broadcast of the Olympics and for good reason. Ace shooter Abhinav Bindra created history by clinching the first ever individual gold for India after winning the men’s 10m air rifle event at the Beijing Olympics.
COngratulations for Abhinav are pouring in from ALL over the world–anywhere with an Indian population. That I believe is the greatness of the Indian disapora. Having adjusted to culture and lifestyle of another country through decades, there is still a connection to the “motherland” — not a nationalist connection, but a cultural one.
I have never been to India. My parents have never been to India. We are Indo-Fijian in every sense with 5 generations of our family brought up outside of India. And yet, when Bindra won the gold medal, my heart leapt up in the air and I went downstairs yelling that “WE won our first individual gold medal.” Of course, they did not comprehend what I meant by WE (probably thinking Fiji) but the reaction was still of excitement and jubiliance when I revealed that India had won its first individual gold medal.
This does not make me any less American–at the end of the day I am still going to be a couch potato, plug in my IPOD, study for the LSAT and write really bad TV fan-fiction in my spare time. But it is a recognition of identities that go beyond the ‘national’ — and no one should be deriding that sort of complexity and diversity.
And how amazing were the Opening Ceremonies? I am glad that I did not need to watch the Opening Ceremony on NBC with the notoriously rude commentators making jibes in passing at countries during the parade (lets forget the amount of commercials that interupted the event). At the same time, the Indian commentators could stop picking on Sania Mirza for not wearing a traditional saree.
It was also disheartening to see South and North Korea marching separately.
Headlines Today (India) estimated that a 4billion record estimate watched the Opening Ceremonies.
If you did not catch it, you can see the opening and closing here (minus the 2 hour long parade) …
Lets not get too blind in the gold and glitter of the event. This celebration of unique talent and diversity does not mean we ignore other voices and concerns.
In New Delhi, nearly 3,000 Tibetans shouting anti-China slogans braved heavy rains to protest near India’s parliament against the Olympics being staged by China.
“China is not the right place to hold Olympics, it is a blood Olympics, it is a shame Olympics,” shouted Kalsang Tsering, a Tibetan protester.
At the same time, lets not make political conditions and rivalries into the topic of discussion. Following the logic applied by Tibetan protestors, the Olympics should not be held in any country since there is no country in the world that does not violate human rights.
Bring on the women’s beach volleyball…
Seven years ago, Zhenliang Weng escaped China to seek political refuge in the United States and enjoy our freedoms and liberties not granted by the China Communist Party (CCP). Today he faces deportation because he made the mistake of obtaining a fake passport in order to get here. While in the United States, Weng became politically active against the Chinese government to the point that if he gets deported from the United States, Weng faces prisontime, torture and maybe even death if deported back to China. His case is now being reviewed for political asylum.
"I am so scared about going back to China," Weng said before dropping his head on the table, breaking down in tears during an interview in the county jail.
"I was just trying to help my country," he said. "I’m not a criminal. I just wanted a better life for myself.
"In China, there is no freedom. I don’t like China."
The United States has a 'wet feet, dry feet' policy under which Cuban immigrants stopped by U.S. ships at sea are sent back to Cuba, but those who make it to dry ground are allowed to remain but the same benefits don't extend to Chinese or Haitians escaping Communist rule in their countries. Why the hypocrisy and different immigration rules for different nationalities experiencing similar political repression?