Beijing Olympics - “Powder on the False Face”

Holding the Olympics in Beijing is wasting manpower and money, the country is still poor. The Olympics could only put powder on the false face of the regime. The communist regime stole the land from the villagers by cheating; now it will cheat the foreigners. (1)

Thus spoke a Mr. Li, a retired Communist Party cadre, one of the thousands forcibly evicted from the heart of the 2008 Olympics site, the residents of Datun village, Chaoyang district, Beijing.

And it is easy to see how this accusation of “powdering” an ugly reality (2) goes far beyond the present moment in China. Very much like that other great compensation for daily misery, the Roman games, the Olympics offer escapism on a grand scale, and an arena for the contending nation states to assert their supremacy and revive that great reactionary opiate, patriotic pride, one of the most effective antidotes to emerging class consciousness known to our rulers. No doubt the mystifying effects of the Olympics operate on a vast scale. Even without the surge in sales of flat-screen televisions the event produced, the typical scene of national flags being raised in religious fashion accompanied by some antique national anthem or another, the encouragement of national rejoicing due to some athlete very possibly the result of some sophisticated doping programme (3) taking a sporting medal, reached into the homes of millions the world over.

Human Rights - Olympic Wrongs

The award of the Olympic games to China, the country which brought you the Tiananmen Massacre only two decades ago, was justified on the grounds that it would improve human rights there. As the quote at the top of this article shows that is exactly the opposite of what as really happened. Thousands have been forcibly moved from their homes in central Beijing. We do not know what has happened to those who resisted. We do know that the Chinese Government promised to allow three official protest sites in parks in Beijing but you had to apply to the Government for permission to use them. No-one, as far as we are aware, was given such permission. Instead those who have applied have been taken by the state and either imprisoned for the duration of the Games or like the two elderly ladies sentenced to one years imprisonment with labour for “re-education purposes”. One of them, Wang Xiuying, is not only almost 80 but also disabled and blind. In fact, the Chinese state has behaved a bit like Mao Tse Tung in 1957. He encouraged outspoken criticism of the regime in his “Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom” campaign, only to imprison those critics who came out into the open. However, the good news was that President Bush turned up to articulate (if that’s the word) his concern for human rights. At least that’s what he said he’d done in private meetings with Hu Jintao, the Chinese President. In public Bush’s strongest statement was actually about freedom of religion.

No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion,

he said on leaving a Church service in China. We do not know what Mr Bush did for Hua Huiqi, a campaigner for religious rights, who was detained by Chinese police on his way to the same service. He has not been seen since.

All that Glistens...

Here in the UK we have been too distracted with the glories of “Team GB” and told the exploits of our athletes override any slight unease we might have at the credit crunch, recession, inflation, et al. No, away with all the little worries, Olympic glory demonstrates that all is well. Even some members of Her Majesty’s Opposition want to cash in on the “good times”

The Conservative mayor this week put himself at odds with party leader David Cameron by flatly rejecting his claim that Britain was a “broken society”.
Mr Johnson branded the mantra - regularly used by the Tory leader to attack Labour - “piffle” and insisted that the success of young Britons at the Olympics proved the criticisms were wrong.

So, at one stroke, the doom and gloom vanishes, the millions of poor, unemployed, broken families and the rest can only be seen as insignificant as against the winning of sporting medals by a tiny elite. Well, it makes a change from the usual claim to massive success when a few capitalists make enormous profits whilst the rest of us scratch our heads wondering exactly where the economic boom is because it sure as hell isn’t in our bank accounts.

Perhaps it is an insult to the readers of our press to spell out more clearly how winning a handful of medals has very little bearing on the health of a national economy, but let us be explicit. Essentially, like any other commodity, they are bought. With money.

Matthew Engel in the Financial Times was very clear that “Team GB’s” success in the Beijing Olympics shows “you can, literally, buy gold metals”. Britain’s Chinese haul of medals has come in what the paper terms “elite sports”.

Since Athens, Britain has trebled its funding for the Beijing games, spending £235 million. Rowing, swimming, cycling and sailing each got over £20 million. One Sunday paper proudly announced on the day the Games wound up that cycling was the “best value” since each of its gold medals had only cost £1.2 millions. The National Lottery has been providing much of the funding for these four disciplines. The Treasury will now fund them with an extra £100 million a year ahead of the London 2012 Games. For the US, on the other hand, the Games has not been a great success as it relies only on sponsorship money to fund its athletes and they have received only £80 million ($150 million) from this source. The success of the huge government funds supplied to Chinese competitors by the Chinese state may change this but then the US might not be so financially willing to take up this particular baton given the financial meltdown.

For those nations that can afford them, the Olympic Games are a terrifically expensive way to advertise status, and the Beijing extravaganza is a perfect example of such imperialist chest beating on a grandiose scale. One only has to consider the tens of billions of dollars spent on the Beijing project to come to that conclusion. China, the great communist fake, a country which has never had a proletarian revolution, a country where labour is treated at least as badly as it was during the worst moments of Britain’s industrial revolution, is fighting for its place of world superpower and the Olympic excess is one more chapter in that story.

And despite the huge financial costs, many countries are so keen to host the Olympics that there is growing evidence that high-level corruption determines their location. A BBC documentary aired in August 2004, entitled Panorama: “Buying the Games”, investigated the taking of bribes in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed it is possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. In an airborne television interview on the way home, the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë specifically accused the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the London Bid Committee (headed by former Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe) of breaking the bid rules with flagrant financial and sexual bribes.

This is what the Olympics are really about: the sponsorship of huge multinational companies aiming to bask in the status and respectability of the Olympic rings, as do the politicians and celebrities such as those sitting one behind the other watching the American swimming team, Bill Gates (mega-capitalist), George Bush (super-patriot lunatic) and Henry Kissinger (killer).

For the ruling class, the real gold, silver and bronze of the Olympic Games are capitalism, patriotism and imperialism.



(2) Other aspects of this “ugly reality” are examined in the article “Chinese Imperialism - A New Force in Africa” in the current issue.

(3) For example, Christine Ohuruogu, who only made it to Beijing after winning an appeal against a lifetime Olympics ban, powered to gold in the women’s 400 metres for Britain’s first athletics win in China. Even British officials looked embarrassed.

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