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Citius Altius Fortius

Survey Of The Beijing Olympics

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In few hours the Beijing Olympics will be closed - here is my survey of the Beijing Olympics

The Beijing Olympics were fantastic regarding efforts in sports, organisation and the Opening Ceremony (the Closing Ceremony will start in two hours), but it were political games - since I had the impression that the last communist super power in the world welcomed the world not to celebrate together the XXIX. Olympiad with a big 2 weeks party, but to show how powerful China is.

I am glad that the Chinese enjoyed the Games and they could be proud of it, but I found it a pitty, that you could get the impression, that the Chinese audience supported the Chinese athletes, only

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius

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It was OK, but to me it just lacked something (didn't help that Australian TV coverage was woeful)

I'd move it into 3rd place on my summer Olympic list behind Sydney & Barcelona and ahead of Athens & Atlanta a distant last

I really am expecting the Poms to put on a great show in 2012 atmosphere wise (if they don't get sucked out by all the corporates in suits and ties)

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Well, I guess we'll all want to do our post-mortems. Might as well get in early before the debates get heated.

An armchair viewer's verdict:

Organisationally and presentationally, they were incredible. The sport was some of the greatest in the games ever - when you're arguing who's was the better achievement, Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, you know you've had a Gold quality competition. And, if the Chinese wanted to boast of their nation and its status, well, isn't that what every host wants to do? Yes, it's meant to be a party for the world, but all hosts want to make their best impression and impact. I don't think it came across as overtly nationalistic or ideological as many people expected. If anything, I didn't think they came across, apart from the opening ceremony, as much "Chinese" as I expected. It was almost like a generic games to me. For some reason, and this might just be me rather than the games, I just didn't connect with them as much as I usually do.

I've seen more than a few descriptions of Beijing as the "No Fun" Games. Not much buzz in the Olympic Green, heavy security and surveillance, limited interaction and engagement with the locals. The description that comes across often is that it lacked spontaneity, that the Chinese left nothing to chance to get out of their control. Maybe that is bias, I duno, it just seems to be the mesage that's coming across.

It'll be interesting to hear from the GameBids members who were there. I'd love to hear some more first=person reports from those on the ground. Puppy? NOC? Jeremie?

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And, if the Chinese wanted to boast of their nation and its status, well, isn't that what every host wants to do? Yes, it's meant to be a party for the world, but all hosts want to make their best impression and impact.

You are totally right, but there is a difference between democracies and totalitarian countries - the authorities/government in totalitarian countries claim to be the sole keeper of "the truth" - in democracies you are able to reflect things out of different points of view...

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You are totally right, but there is a difference between democracies and totalitarian countries - the authorities/government in totalitarian countries claim to be the sole keeper of "the truth" - in democracies you are able to reflect things out of different points of view...

Yes, that's something we're proud of in our democracies. And something we're proud to proclaim. But on can't say only democratic countries are allowed to be proud of themselves. Whether they have a political system that is to our tastes and expectations or not, Chinese are understandably proud of their nation.

The Olympics is not about trying to change the world into democracies. At its most idealistic, it's about us all trying to engage with each other and get to know each other.

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Yes, that's something we're proud of in our democracies. And something we're proud to proclaim. But on can't say only democratic countries are allowed to be proud of themselves. Whether they have a political system that is to our tastes and expectations or not, Chinese are understandably proud of their nation.

The Olympics is not about trying to change the world into democracies. At its most idealistic, it's about us all trying to engage with each other and get to know each other.

... it was absolutely not my intention to say that the Chinese are not allowed to be proud - the Beijing Olympics were fantastic and I liked to watch them, but I see the other side that the Chinese just showed us, what they wanted to show

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It lacked that je ne sais quoi that made Sydney so special.

Its even heard to enjoy the sporting achievement because of the constant cloud of doping. Only 4 athletes testing positive is suspect, considering that at least a dozen tested positive in Athens and not much has changed in 4 years.

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Well, I guess we'll all want to do our post-mortems. Might as well get in early before the debates get heated.

An armchair viewer's verdict:

Organisationally and presentationally, they were incredible. The sport was some of the greatest in the games ever - when you're arguing who's was the better achievement, Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, you know you've had a Gold quality competition. And, if the Chinese wanted to boast of their nation and its status, well, isn't that what every host wants to do? Yes, it's meant to be a party for the world, but all hosts want to make their best impression and impact. I don't think it came across as overtly nationalistic or ideological as many people expected. If anything, I didn't think they came across, apart from the opening ceremony, as much "Chinese" as I expected. It was almost like a generic games to me. For some reason, and this might just be me rather than the games, I just didn't connect with them as much as I usually do.

I've seen more than a few descriptions of Beijing as the "No Fun" Games. Not much buzz in the Olympic Green, heavy security and surveillance, limited interaction and engagement with the locals. The description that comes across often is that it lacked spontaneity, that the Chinese left nothing to chance to get out of their control. Maybe that is bias, I duno, it just seems to be the mesage that's coming across.

It'll be interesting to hear from the GameBids members who were there. I'd love to hear some more first=person reports from those on the ground. Puppy? NOC? Jeremie?

Well, as a Beijing resident I survived the Games, and managed to attend about 35 event sessions over the last 2 weeks. My general comments:

1) Your description of overbearing security, total control, lack of any spontaneity, and no "buzz" is absolutely correct. Even more so, these Games were completely about the Chinese establishment proving itself to its own people. Like a bad propaganda movie, where everything is scripted and in which most of the rest of us were extras hired to provide a bit of variety and fill space. Perhaps I felt this more acutely than a short-term visitor, as I live in Beijing and my Chinese BS-meter is on perpetual overdrive.

2) The Olympic Green is one of the most imposing and user-unfriendly public spaces I have ever been in (and I'm an architecture and planning professional who's seen plenty of big and often unfriendly public spaces worldwide). It is WAY too big, distances between venues are too long, and services too scattered. It could have been done in less than half the hectares, with the result of concentrating people and allowing some sort of activity nexus to develop. However, I presume this is exactly what the Chinese authorities DIDN'T want--if so, they succeeded in spades. My own definition of Chinese public outdoor space design is by military "tank widths"--as in 3 tanks wide, 6 tanks wide, etc.. The Olympic Green central paved area alone is about 20 tanks wide, make of that what you will. The physical plant was a serious IMPEDIMENT to establishing an Olympic atmosphere--you have to bring people together, not scatter them about. And the walking distances were inexcusably long. Subway placement too far away from major venues. And road closures pretty much obliterated taxi service without a long walk.

3) Security onto the Green: not enough entrances--at least two more needed in additional locations. Provision for purchase of daypasses for the Green-only, with dedicated security to handle, would have helped get more people and activity going. The ultra-strict security and Green access only for venue ticket holders held down attendance numbers, which the corporate sponsors complained about.

4) Don't give the Chinese too much credit for being good organizers, they are not God's gift to either planning or execution. Faulty logic generally underpins the planning, and lack of training, leadership, and initiative torpedoes the execution. The well-covered ticketing debacles were only the start. It continued: Transport--as in the special Olympic buses--was a big flop, which I knew the minute I opened the route map. I'm not sure how the routes were decided, but except for the express out to the Shunyi Canoe/Rowing venue, it was all but unusable for spectators. Even the loop line around the Green was overly ponderous and slow, and not in both directions. Food/Beverage Concessions--sheer, unmitigated disaster, not only on the Green and major venues but at EVERY venue I attended. Cheap goods, but basically nothing to eat. Long lines esp inside the Birds Nest due to both design and worker/operational issues. You know it's bad when you run to McDonalds as your best option. This issue was complained about at test events over the last year, but obviously complaints fell on deaf ears. Nobody expects gourmet dining in this sort of situation, but EVERYBODY (including the Chinese public) was complaining about both selection and servicing. Lest you think catering improved in the skyboxes...well, no not really, you just didn't have to go to concessions and stand in line to get your food and drink. Never in human history was pizza delivery craved by so many for so long...

5) Fans Disguised as Empty Chairs--Tin Medals of Dishonor to VIPS, media, CCP officials, other organizations, etc. who received "accreditation" tickets and didn't use, while the ticketed area sold to the general public was full. Venue after venue, session after session including things like Swimming finals. Boos and brickbats to BOCOG for assigning anywhere from 15% (typical) to 50% (water cube) of the capacity to these deadbeats. Note for Vancouver: cut back the media area to the bone and make workstations something less than palatial. And assign some of these priveleged types to the cheap seats up in nosebleed corners, they won't show up anyway so it won't matter. Leaving some of the decent seats for the rest of us.

6) Volunteers--definitely a bright spot. They were helpful and pretty well-trained. On three occasions I had specific complaints, which were taken seriously and solutions offered to the best of their ability (two situations required immediate referral to a higher level staff member). Of course, nearly all of these were Chinese, but I want to make Special Commendation to the the foreign student volunteer from Cameroon...stationed outside the South Green security entrance and cheerfully greeting all comers in fluent English, French, and Chinese. (This became my favorite way to enter the Green due to almost nonexistent wait time to get through security).

7) Corporate Pavilions--didn't get to all of these, but I liked the Adidas one--intertwining the history of their shoes in various Olympics, then a 2008 clothing display and fascinating display of all the different kinds of shoes per sport--I had no idea! And displays of some of the 2008 athletes and their Adidas competition footwear. I also liked the Coca-Cola pavilion's display room with the human-sized artwork bottles, one from each province in China, designed by an artist from that area and representative of something about that province.

8) Elsewhere in Beijing. Very eerie feeling in much of the City--it just lacks the vibrancy of a normal summer, and this is my seventh summer in Beijing. Away from the venues, life went on as normal but the streets were markedly empty, there was no excitement or "buzz" about the Olympics. Seriously, the closest thing I can compare the atmosphere to is 2003 SARS, except without the Fear or the Face Masks. If you asked the average Beijinger how they felt about the Olympics, 9 times out of 10, you'd get the same canned answer "it's great thing for China and the city.." delivered in a pretty unconvincing monotone. Nobody will say anything negative, but it's a far cry from huzzahs and handsprings. The city's nightspots seemed to be doing OK business, and I think the athletes started making appearances especially in the 2nd week, if you happened to get lucky on picking your entertainment location.

10) The Sports. What we all came for, I think. This was mostly brilliant and made putting up with everything else worthwhile.

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I think the difference between a Sydney, Athens, or a Barcelona and what we had in Beijing was the intense media focus on the things other than sport. OK, Athens had the scrutiny of the construction woes. But Athenians, Sydneysiders and Barcelonans were allowed to be more celebratory because because they belong to open democratic societies where expression is allowed and likely expected. For the Chinese, there was too much at stake. They were gracious hosts, but anxious ones too.

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Sports wise - spectacular, ceremonies - spectacular

the anticipation and wondering all these years, although games were a success and enjoyable, with the hype i expected games that would take decades to match

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For the Chinese, there was too much at stake. They were gracious hosts, but anxious ones too.

Exactly - there was too much at stake, but there was too much at stake, due the Chinese Communist Party thinks and behave like its fate depends on the success of these Olympic Games...

This is a contraction to the declaration of the Chinese Government, that the Olympic Games shouldn't been abused by politics - therefore the Chinese Government caused the problems at the Beijing Olympics itself!

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I think I have to divide my verdict on Beijing into two distinct areas. As a sporting spectacle, they were truly exceptional and played out in some truly astonishing arenas.

However, some of the other aspects left plenty to be desired. I heard a radio presenter very early on in the Games describe the 'Rent-a-Mob' nature of the crowd at one particular venue. The level of empty seats was bordering on the criminal. The security, unless you were an athlete or a member of the media (assuming you weren't arrested for doing your job like ITN's John Ray was), has apparently been incredibly overbearing. Catering at the venues, I also understand, has been poor.

So, I guess the overall verdict would be good, but.

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There were good things about these Games; the venues, the organisation, the way the Chinese seemed to take them to their hearts, the ceremonnies were mindblowing. There were also bad things; the poor treatment of some journalists, the over-organisation, the dodgy judging in some events, and the fact that certain gymnasts were almost certainly too young to be at the Games.

But very little of that matters to us, we've just had our best outing for nearly a century. The people who made these Games for me were nearly all British; and I don't mean that in a derogatory way towards the Chinese in any sense. The good things and the bad things I've mentioned above are a mere backdrop to what our athletes acheived; it almost feels like this thread is discussing the canvas and not the painting itself.

If we'd finished 8th or 9th I might be more able to analyse China's acheivements and problems objectively, but it's hard to remember a Games which has united our nation as much as this one has and for that reason these Games were the best ever, despite Sydney being better.

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About what I expected. As I said earlier I always wondered what it would have been like to attend the Berlin and Moscow games. And now I know.

Technically well-run. No mad priests charging runners on the Marathon course or radio personalities breaching security to stand in a tu tu at the top of the diving platforms in these games. ;) From that standpoint these games were probably the best.

Opening ceremonies were good, although the stories of fakery and what some of the performers had to endure prior to them starting kind of dampens them. The lighting of the cauldron I would put in the top 5 of my personal favs.

Competitions were great but there was a lot of sketchy judging in several of the sports. I personally haven't seen such judging since '76. There has been such judging since then but those instances were more isolated. In Bejing it seemed more widespread.

I do not buy for a minute that all of the Chinese gymnasts were of age. A new form of cheating appears to have come out of these games, in addition to doping.

All in all, very well executed, very well done. But I just didn't get the spirit or the fun vibe I got with Atlanta and Sydney.

At this point, with the SOG's I have personally seen I say (1) Los Angeles (2) Sydney (3) Barcelona (4) Bejing

Edited by LA84

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I thought the Beijing Games were amazingly organised - everything seemed to have been thought about a great deal before and nothing left to chance - although perhaps this led to the absence of spontaneity and any relaxation.

The Opening Ceremony was among the best Olympic Ceremonies ever in my opinion - everything was choreographed and synchronised within a millesecond - almost robotic (so perhaps lacked a little emotion).

The sport was amazing too - despite the problems with judging in some events - I particularly enjoyed the rowing, sailing and cycling. ;)

1) Barcelona, 2) Beijing, 3) Sydney/Athens.

Edited by Stu

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It was awesome. Sure, there were a few minor controversies (the Gymnastics being the biggest), but overall, it was a brilliantly executed Games. The combined Online and TV coverage on the networks of NBC/Universal was astounding, and of course, I'll be enjoying the on-demand video for weeks to come to catch what I didn't see (online until 12/31 per their website FAQ). The opening ceremony was also amazing, with a truly cool Parade of Nations.

I just still can't believe Softball and Baseball are gone for 2012, though, especially after the Gold Medal result in Softball. (Warped Logic: Let's get rid of Table Tennis because of Chinese domination!)

Bring on 2010 and 2012, baby!!!

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If anything, I didn't think they came across, apart from the opening ceremony, as much "Chinese" as I expected. It was almost like a generic games to me. For some reason, and this might just be me rather than the games, I just didn't connect with them as much as I usually do.

Thought I was the only one that felt this way.

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Everything came off as expected

EXCEPT that DOGGONE "Medals Ceremony" theme song!! That THEME was DRIVING ME NUTS!!! The IOC should ban such stupid REPETITIVE themes NEXT TIME!!!

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... it was absolutely not my intention to say that the Chinese are not allowed to be proud - the Beijing Olympics were fantastic and I liked to watch them, but I see the other side that the Chinese just showed us, what they wanted to show

CAF, why would you want to see anything else? What good would it do you? :blink:

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The enthusiasm of the Chinese which have been missing there since a while.

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... it was absolutely not my intention to say that the Chinese are not allowed to be proud - the Beijing Olympics were fantastic and I liked to watch them, but I see the other side that the Chinese just showed us, what they wanted to show

What would the "average Chinese" have wanted to show that was different? I'm sure if you asked most Chinese, they would have wanted a spectacular celebration of their proud history and culture. It's not like they would have wanted an artistic impression of battling crowds and spitting on the subway, or battling to break through internet filters. I'm sure the average Chinese just wanted to showcase what they were proud of, and were probably too self-consious to poke fun at themselves the way the Sydney ceremonies in particular did.

When it comes down to it, whenever a superpower hosts the games, the rest of the world are always going to be on their back about self-aggrandisement. Don't tell me that if it was the US hosting, there wouldn't have been complaints and whines, whatever was presented, about American boasting and being over the top. A big power really can't win.

Edited by Sir Roltel

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China showed only what the government wished to show both at the Olympic venues and in Beijing at large--the "average Chinese" didn't have a say in the matter. In fact, a couple of million "average Chinese" were deemed not fit for international television viewing audiences, and were shown Beijing's Exit door during the early part of July. The mass media has made it seemed like 1.3 billion people in the PRC were rah-rahing over the Games, when in fact a significant minority questioned the expenditure and other issues for an event which only tangentially touched the lives of most citizens. The voices of this minority were SILENCED a long time ago, no public discussion or debate. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (collaborator on the design of the Birds Nest) has made statements both last year and this year that I largely agree with. This Article is but one of many quoting his views.

My reaction to the Opening Ceremonies in particular, seems to be quite different from the rest of the forum. While visually spectacular, which I fully expected--the "joy/peace love and brotherhood stuff" was a complete Chinese fakeroo, making this event an emotionally empty farce. For me, the negative implications of tens of thousands of marching, perfectly rehearsed automatons sent chills up my spine--I found it sinister and menacing rather than uplifting. Sometimes knowing too much about the lead-up to the spectacle is not a good thing. Some of you may be familiar with the old movie "The Stepford Wives"--this felt like a "Stepford Olympics" for just about everything except the sports sessions themselves.

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CAF, why would you want to see anything else? What good would it do you? :blink:

Nothing, but I don't want to feel to be sold down the river - I want to decide myself if I just want to see the bright side of the medal or if I want to take a look the dark side of the medal, too...

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius

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A big power really can't win.

Or to quote one of my favorite lines from "Gladiator"...a people should know when they are conquered.

Just a flipside to the same thought.

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My reaction to the Opening Ceremonies in particular, seems to be quite different from the rest of the forum. While visually spectacular, which I fully expected--the "joy/peace love and brotherhood stuff" was a complete Chinese fakeroo, making this event an emotionally empty farce. For me, the negative implications of tens of thousands of marching, perfectly rehearsed automatons sent chills up my spine--I found it sinister and menacing rather than uplifting. Sometimes knowing too much about the lead-up to the spectacle is not a good thing. Some of you may be familiar with the old movie "The Stepford Wives"--this felt like a "Stepford Olympics" for just about everything except the sports sessions themselves.

What else did you expect? Frankly, I would've been TOTALLY disappointed if I saw thousands of performers trying to do their "look-at-me" individuality like the London segment in the Closing. Would totally not have worked and been a big turn-off.

"Stepford" was enough for me for SHEER SPECTACLE. And you got a perfectly run Olympics.

Edited by baron-pierreIV

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