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December 3, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright December 3, 2008 James Leibold. Used by permission.


With the self-professed slogans of the Green Olympics, High-tech Olympics and the People’s Olympics, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) should have anticipated criticism. It left nothing to chance in hosting the world’s athletes and spectators—gleaming stadia, smiling faces and blue skies: all as ordered. But as many Western observers noted, BOCOG forgot to invite the Chinese people—with security guards, CCTV cameras and robot-like volunteers ensuring little spontaneity or popular emotion at the so-called People’s Games.

In the wake of the unprecedented media coverage of China’s global “coming out party,” few have paused to consider who and what were on display at Beijing 2008. In the pomp and pageantry of the most expensive Olympic Games in history, whose image did the organizers project before the world’s probing gaze? In promoting the Olympic Games and Olympic Movement, BOCOG promised to “organize diversified cultural and educational programs to cater to the needs of the people,” while encouraging “the widest participation of the people in the preparation of the Games” in order to “increase the cohesion and pride of the Chinese nation.” But a closer look at the preparations and staging of the Games reveals deep strains in the very fabric of the Chinese nation, not only the fraying threads of class, place, and gender, which have been often commented on, but also of ethnicity.