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Will A Label Stick To These Games?

发布者: chrislau2001 | 发布时间: 2008-9-9 13:48| 查看数: 2146| 评论数: 2|

Since at least 1936, almost every Olympic Games has become known for a dominant story line: Hitler and Jesse Owens in Berlin, the black-power salute in Mexico City, the massacre of athletes in Munich, or the bribery scandal in Salt Lake City.

Now it's Beijing's turn, with a difference. Most other Olympics acquired their label during or after the games, usually after emotions had coalesced or a big news event pushed other stories off the front page. But the combination of fascination with China and increasingly intense churn of media attention has changed that. The effort to define this summer's games has been going on now for months, a cacophony of narratives that have vied for dominance even before the games begin.

The games are to formally kick off Friday with an elaborate opening ceremony directed by Zhang Yimou, China's most famous filmmaker. A chorus of Chinese children are to sing the Olympic anthem in Greek, and an elaborate fireworks show will light the sky. Scores of corporate chiefs and heads of state -- including U.S. President George W. Bush -- are expected for what seems like a combination of sporting event and diplomatic summit.

For many, these Olympics are a Rorschach test for how one feels about a big, complicated and hard-to-pigeonhole developing country holding a major international event. Human-rights groups have tried to dub the games the 'genocide games' for Beijing's support of Sudan and that African government's alleged crimes in Darfur. Others have called them the 'smog games' for the city's dreadful air pollution. Still others predict this will be the games when China gets crowned the next sporting superpower. Meanwhile, architecture critics have descended upon Beijing to visit the city's new trophy buildings, seeing in them signs of everything from crypto-fascism to architecture's power to democratize.

All of which has led to perhaps the most unexpected story line of all: the China-fatigue games.

'There's almost the feeling of the anticlimactic games,' says Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine, and author of a book on China's role in the global village. 'It's almost as if the Olympics have happened already.'

China's own hopes are relatively simple. 'I hope [visitors] will see a peaceful China, a civilized China and a China that is progressing,' Wu Jianmin, a senior Chinese diplomat, told journalists Thursday.

The effort to define China's first-ever Olympics goes back at least to 2001, when China won the right to host the Games. China's president at the time, Jiang Zemin, declared it one of the most important victories for China in recent history. Hosting became a national task; it was no longer just Beijing's games but China's games, with the entire country mobilized behind it.

That made it a tempting target for China critics. Plans to disrupt the games began early. Two years ago, for example, students at Harvard University hosted a conference on how to use the 2008 Olympics to publicize the issue of Tibetan independence. They decided to appeal to world leaders to boycott the games and plotted about how to organize demonstrations inside China during the games.

Other groups targeted the torch relay. In what proved to be a tactical mistake, China decided to hold the relay in Western countries, where protests then took place. China was stunned when protesters in France almost stopped the relay by grabbing the torch.

Celebrities got involved early on, too. When director Steven Spielberg said he would help stage the opening ceremony, actress Mia Farrow publicly criticized him for helping a government that she said was aiding Sudan commit genocide in Darfur. Mr. Spielberg pulled out.

One reason why politics may be so high on the agenda is that this is only the second time since the end of World War II that the games haven't been held in a country that is pro-Western or at least neutral. The only other time, 1980 in Moscow, the U.S. led a boycott (which China also joined).

'Part of what's happening is the clash between East and West,' says Susan Brownell, who has written extensively on Chinese sports. 'We have a rising power that is not under U.S. control.'

Politics hasn't been the cause of the 'smog games' label. A year before the games, Western media were raising questions about Beijing's air quality. China countered by vowing to improve it. Some independent evidence shows that air quality is getting better.

Thursday, a haze still blanketed Beijing, but experts said pollution levels were down 20% over the same period last year.

According to data from the government, the average for the air-pollution-index readings for the past 18 days since the strict controls began fell to 76.5 from 94.7, with 100 as the maximum for healthy levels. That still left the levels much higher than what the World Health Organization considers safe and higher than what most Westerners will be accustomed to.

The environment highlights how China is caught in a Catch-22. The roaring economy and overall popular support for the government is due to relaxed economic and political control. But to improve the environment -- and in general to hold the Games successfully -- China has resorted to top-down measures, such as banning cars or temporarily closing factories.

'The great irony of this is that much of the success of China [in recent decades] is a retrenchment of the government and to a certain extent political relaxation,' says Jacques deLisle, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has written on the battle to control the Beijing Games' image. 'But to get this image across they have to go back to pre-reform methods.'

In the battle to control the message, proponents and opponents have drawn on history. Critics have dubbed this a redux of the 1936 games, which the Nazis used to emphasize their near-total control over society. Defenders have said it is more like the 1988 Seoul games, which came to symbolize South Korea's dramatic democratization. Others see this closer to Tokyo in 1964: an Asian country eager to put the past behind it and dazzle with technological wonders like the Bullet Train.

Although China isn't as technologically advanced as Japan, it has deployed state largess to impress visitors, especially architecture fans. Critics have visited and been duly impressed by the city's new trophy buildings, such as the 'Bird's Nest' stadium, the giant new home for state broadcaster China Central Television and the egg-shaped National Center for the Performing Arts. Even though the latter two aren't related to the Olympics, they have been taken as symbols of a new, dynamic China, never mind that they are products of a colossal state effort.

Much of this discussion, however, may be irrelevant for the most important target audience: the Chinese people themselves. The foreign criticism has already helped the government by causing Chinese to pull together defensively, says Scott Kronick, who heads the China operations of public-relations giant Ogilvy, which has done pro bono consulting work for the Chinese government.

'They want to use this to promote reforms and national unification -- the harmonious society,' Mr. Kronick said. 'I think it's achieved this already. Even the foreign criticism has helped this.'

For many Chinese, the flood of state leaders and foreign dignitaries will show that the government has succeeded. The Olympics, says Prof. deLisle, will come across to most people here like this: 'Chinese athletes will win, the world will come to China, and there will be this incredible show.'

Ian Johnson

最新评论

chrislau2001 发表于 2008-9-9 13:49:47

北京奥运以何形像流传后世?



少从1936年开始,每届奥运会都有一个让它名传后世的重大事件:柏林奥运会上的希特勒(Hitler)与杰西•欧文斯(Jesse Owens),墨西哥城奥运会选手向黑**利致敬,慕尼黑奥运会多名运动员遭残杀,还有盐湖城的贿赂丑闻。

现在轮到北京奥运会了,但跟以前有点不一样。往届奥运会大多是在举办期间或闭幕之后确立自己的标志性事件,通常是在人们的情绪已经平息,或是某个重大事件使以往的头版消息相形见绌之后。但人们对中国的浓厚兴趣和媒体对中国日渐强烈的关注改变了这种状况。给今夏奥运会定性的行动现在已经进行了好几个月,奥运还没开幕,就已经有一大堆事件竞争最重大事件的位置了。

奥运会将于周五正式开幕,精心策划的开幕式由中国最著名的导演张艺谋指导。由中国儿童组成的合唱团将以希腊语演唱奥运圣歌,精心准备的焰火表演将会照亮夜空。数十位商界领袖和各国首脑──包括美国总统布什(George W. Bush)──都将现身这场似乎集体育赛事和外交峰会于一身的盛会。



Getty Images

鸟巢旁的旗杆上飘着中国国旗和奥运会会旗



对于许多人来说,奥运会就像一场罗氏测验(Rorschach test),可以检验人们对一个庞大、复杂、难以归类的发展中国家举办重大国际赛事的观感。**组织试图授予本届奥运会“种族屠杀奥运会”的称号,原因是中国政府支持被指在达尔富尔实行种族屠杀的苏丹政府。一些人因北京糟糕的空气污染而称本届奥运会为“烟雾奥运会”。还有人预测中国将在本届奥运会上成为下一个体育超级大国。与此同时,一些建筑评论家也来到北京,参观这座城市新的地标性建筑,并从中看出了从隐秘的法西斯主义到建筑师的民主化能力等种种象征意义。

这一切导致了或许是最让人意想不到的事情:中国疲劳奥运会。

加州大学(University of California)中国历史教授华志坚(Jeffrey Wasserstrom)说,人们简直有种对奥运会兴趣骤减的感觉,就好像奥运会已经开过了。华志坚曾著书阐述中国在全球担当的角色。

中国自身的愿望相对简单。中国资深外交官吴建民周四对记者说,他希望游客能看到一个和平、文明、发展的中国。

给中国有史以来首次举办的奥运会定性的工作可以追溯到2001年中国赢得奥运会主办权那一时刻。当时的中国国家主席江泽民宣布,这是中国在近代史上取得的最重大的胜利之一。举办奥运会成了全国的任务;它不再是北京一地的奥运会,而是中国的奥运会,整个国家都动员起来了。

在这种情况下,奥运会成了批评中国的人士的一大目标。扰乱奥运会的计划很早就开始了。举例来说,两年前,哈佛大学学生举行了一次会议,主题是如何利用奥运会宣传**的诉求。他们决定呼吁世界各国领导人抵制奥运会,并策划了奥运会期间在中国境内组织示威活动。

其他一些组织则将目标对准了火炬接力。中国决定在西方国家进行火炬接力,这被证明是一个策略性的错误,火炬传递过程中发生了抗议活动。当法国的抗议者抢夺火炬、几乎令火炬接力陷入停顿时,中国震惊不已。

各界名人也很早就牵涉其中。导演斯蒂芬•斯皮尔伯格(Steven Spielberg)表示他将帮助筹备奥运会开幕式,但演员米娅•法罗(Mia Farrow)公开谴责他的举动,法罗认为中国政府帮助苏丹在达尔富尔进行种族屠杀。斯皮尔伯格选择了退出。

本届奥运会进程中,政治气氛如此浓厚的一个原因在于,这是自第二次世界大战以来,奥运会第二次没有在亲西方国家或至少中立的国家举行。另外一次是1980年的莫斯科奥运会,当时美国发起了抵制行动(中国也参加了抵制)。

在中国体育方面着述颇丰的苏珊•布朗奈尔(Susan Brownell)说,部分问题在于东西方的冲突,现在出现了一个不受美国掌控的日渐强盛的大国。

导致北京奥运被贴上“烟雾奥运”标签的原因可不在政治。离奥运会开幕还有一年的时候,西方媒体就提出了关于北京空气质量的问题。中国对此的回应是发誓要改善空气质量。一些独立证据表明空气质量有所好转。

周四,北京仍然笼罩在薄雾之中,但专家表示,空气污染水平较去年同期下降了20%。

据政府提供的数据,自实施严格的限制措施以来,过去18天的空气污染指数从94.7下降到76.5,可视为健康水平的指数上限为100。这个水平仍然远远高于世界卫生组织(World Health Organization)认为安全的水平,也高于大多数西方人所习惯的水平。

环境问题凸显出中国怎样陷入了左右为难的境地。经济的突飞猛进和政府获得的普遍支持缘于经济和政治控制的放松。但为了改善环境──同时也是为了成功举办奥运会──中国又不得不求助于严格的管控措施,比如限制汽车上路行驶或暂时关闭工厂。

宾夕法尼亚州立大学教授、曾就北京奥运会的形像战有所着述的戴杰(Jacques deLisle)说,上述做法的一大讽刺之处在于,中国最近几十年取得的成功很大程度上缘于政府的放权以及某种程度的政治宽松,但要让人们接受中国的这一新形像,政府又必须重拾改革前的老办法。

为了赢得北京奥运会的形像之争,支持者和反对者都借鉴了历史。批评人士说本届奥运会是1936年奥运会的重演,纳粹利用这届奥运会来强调其对德国社会的全面掌控。支持中国举办奥运的人则认为本届奥运会更像1988年的汉城奥运会,后者是韩国迅速民主化的象征。还有一些人认为它更接近于1964年的东京奥运会:一个急切地想摒弃过去、炫耀子弹头列车之类技术奇迹的亚洲国家。

虽然中国在科技上不如日本先进,但也准备了一些会令游客、尤其是建筑爱好者印象深刻的“大礼”。持批评态度的人在参观了这座城市全新的地标性建筑后也留下了深刻印象,这些建筑包括“鸟巢”体育场、中国中央电视台宏伟的新址,以及形如巨蛋的国家大剧院等。虽然后两者与奥运无关,但它们都被视为活力十足的全新中国的标志,更不用说它们还是倾举国之力的成果。

不过,这场争论对于最重要的目标受众──中国人民本身──可能并无意义。在公关巨头奥美公司(Ogilvy & Mather)负责中国业务的柯颍德(Scott Kronick)说,外国的批评其实是帮了中国政府的忙,因为责难之声促使中国人民齐心协力为自己辩护。奥美为中国政府提供无偿的顾问服务。

柯颍德说,中国政府想借奥运的机会促进改革和全民团结,也就是构建和谐社会。他认为中国政府已经实现了这个目标,外国的批评之声对此功不可没。

对于许多中国人而言,外国首脑和显贵纷纷来到中国显示了中国政府的成功。戴杰说,奥运会将给大多数中国人留下这样的印象:中国运动员将赢得胜利,世界将会关注中国,而一场了不起的盛会将会上演。

Ian Johnson
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