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Not Much Fun In Middle Kingdom


Fox334
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China is presenting two completely different sides of itself in the days leading up to the Olympics.

On the one hand there are pictures of smiling volunteers practicing dance routines and cheers, or amateur artists, like a 112-year-old woman from Nanjing who has created three paper cuts on red paper that have not only the Beijing Olympics logo on it, but also the Olympic rings and eight doves.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media are constantly publishing images of security forces standing ready to protect Beijing and prevent terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games.

There are pictures of menacing-looking soldiers toting machine guns, police with sniffer dogs, patrol boats performing drills, and even soldiers on Segways ready to shoot.

More fear than fun

While it’s great to know Beijing is pretty much the safest city in China now, the collective image it conjures is more of fear than fun.

And as the Chinese capital gets ready to host the biggest party ever, it’s pouring cold water on a festive atmosphere.

Outdoor events have been banned, the most notable was the Midi Festival usually held at the beginning of May. Just weeks before the event, which is starting to get attention from international music media, Midi was called off without much reason.

And musicians here are pretty much out of work as clubs aren’t allowed to have them play unless they have a performance license. It’s supposed to be issued by the Sanitation Department, but it has been given a directive from higher-ups not to issue any licenses during the lead-up to the Olympics and during the Games themselves.

But that’s not all. Any entertainer from Hong Kong, Taiwan or overseas not only has to have their program of songs vetted by the authorities, but the encore pieces as well. Artists can thank Icelandic singer Bjork for that when she shouted “Tibet, Tibet!” after performing her song “Declare Independence” at the end of her concert in Shanghai.

Al fresco dining

While it’s hot during the day, evenings have the perfect temperature for al fresco dining – if you can find it. Restaurateurs have been told by the authorities that all tables and chairs outside need to be removed for “security reasons.”

People who ride bicycles are not supposed to park their bikes in doorways and hair salons aren’t allowed to dry their towels on folding racks on the sidewalks.

This restrictive atmosphere is partly to blame for the low hotel occupancy rates. The other day Chinese state media reported four-star and three-star hotels in Beijing were dropping their rates in a bid to entice visitors to see the Games.

While five-star hotels are mostly full, thanks to sponsors and VIPs staying there, four-star hotels were reporting occupancies of 44 per cent for August. In a last-ditch attempt to get more bookings, a typical four-star hotel asks for 800RMB ($118.41) a night, down from the original 1,500RMB ($220). Three-star hotels are 400RMB ($59.20), from 700RMB ($103.61).

“The reasons could be multiple and the price cut for the Olympics is now a trend,” Wu Jiaoli, a press officer with Ctrip.com explained. “One reason is that the occupancy rate is less than expected; another is to undercut competitors at the last moment.”

Jumping through hoops

However, price is not the only factor – visas have been hard to come by. Some foreign visitors have complained about the number of hoops they have to jump through, as they have to show proof of plane tickets and a hotel certificate as proof of a hotel booking before they can apply for a visa.

Others are shaken by the number of China-related events this year, from the Tibet riots, to the torch relay and then the May 12 earthquake, making them think twice about coming to the Middle Kingdom.

In the meantime, while traffic is lighter and final preparations are finished, there isn’t much joy left in Beijing. Some wish the Games were over already so that the city can go back to its normal self.

Maybe it’s time to cue those Olympics cheerleaders again.

http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/blog/beijing/be...#socialcomments

I really wonder what kind of atmosphere there will be during the games...

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Well~that's true, most of Beijingers complaining the games is for foreigners and the rich rather than the locals.

No you've got it backwards. Most of the foreigners here are noting that the Games are designed to be for the Chinese only and the government wants all the foreigners to leave---they've definitely been doing their best to make this happen. If the Chinese gov't thought they could get away with holding an Olympics without the foreign athletes and officials, they'd certainly be giving it a try. The Beijing Olympics isn't so much about hosting an international sports gathering, it's about the current Chinese power structure puffing itself up and inciting a big nationalistic fervor to make the Chinese feel good about themselves. The Chinese gov't and the BOCOG lackeys can control the messages going to their internal constituencies--but they can't necessarily force their version of this Billion-Person Group Grope on everybody else.

In recent memory, the Olympics has always been more for the rich and/or the well-connected than the common folk. Not unique to China in 2008. Perhaps they'd have more Chinese ordinary public in the stands if they hadn't given away many of the tickets out the back door to the Party faithful.

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BTW, we can still have outdoor cafe seating, the closing-down of such spaces was an earlier rumor that has apparently been reconsidered by the authorities. Lots of places still operating outdoors as usual. The security is getting downright silly in places--not 20 minutes ago at my residence compound, I just passed a group of property management and local police doing yet ANOTHER round of "bedchecks" of foreigners' apartments. Despite the fact they were just here 3 weeks ago. I won't deny that any major international event attracts the crazies, the desperate, and the evil...but just how many Tibet@ns/Uigurs/East Turkmen/Al Qaida/human rights activists/muckraking journalists/<add troublemaker of your choice> can have moved in to my building compound over the last 3 weeks, preparing to launch attacks?

When you see a threat behind every tree, it detracts from focusing on the REAL threats. And keeping the population in fear of attack, and in need of "protection," keeps a lot of powerful old men secure in their jobs.

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"This restrictive atmosphere is partly to blame for the low hotel occupancy rates. The other day Chinese state media reported four-star and three-star hotels in Beijing were dropping their rates in a bid to entice visitors to see the Games."

HA HA This happens at every Olympics I've ever been to, and Beijing will be my 7th. But here the joke really is on the Chinese, because these same hotels were quoting insane rates, acting downright nasty over the phone, and hanging up on people just a few months ago. But at the same time they were making it extremely difficult for people to obtain tickets, visas, etc. It is by far the most difficult games I've ever tried to attend, and I know several people who just gave up. So now the hotels are empty, and it's now too late for anyone who might like to come to jump through their ridiculous visa hoops. And a lot of restaurants and bars will be griping in a couple of weeks about doing no business and missing out on their anticipated Olympic windfall. But since in their paranoia and greed they made it damn near impossible for anyone to come, what the hell did they expect was going to happen?

They've just "protected" themselves right out of a profit.

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"This restrictive atmosphere is partly to blame for the low hotel occupancy rates. The other day Chinese state media reported four-star and three-star hotels in Beijing were dropping their rates in a bid to entice visitors to see the Games."

HA HA This happens at every Olympics I've ever been to, and Beijing will be my 7th. But here the joke really is on the Chinese, because these same hotels were quoting insane rates, acting downright nasty over the phone, and hanging up on people just a few months ago. But at the same time they were making it extremely difficult for people to obtain tickets, visas, etc. It is by far the most difficult games I've ever tried to attend, and I know several people who just gave up. So now the hotels are empty, and it's now too late for anyone who might like to come to jump through their ridiculous visa hoops. And a lot of restaurants and bars will be griping in a couple of weeks about doing no business and missing out on their anticipated Olympic windfall. But since in their paranoia and greed they made it damn near impossible for anyone to come, what the hell did they expect was going to happen?

They've just "protected" themselves right out of a profit.

Thank you, Al. That's exactly how I've sized up the situation. I was willing to go for 4 days if I had an OC ticket.

But, as you said, their ridiculous restrictions, conditions, etc. (including United Airlines' insane Upgrade conditions), made me say: ehhhhhh, ain't worth it. You lose, China and United.

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