Beijing Retrospective

News reports today lauded Beijing’s
well-coordinated efforts as the Olympic Games drew to a close. The “gigantic party” of the closing
ceremonies last night complemented the eye-popping, highly-orchestrated opening
ceremonies of August 8 – an appropriate celebration for China’s massive accomplishment,
according to the Washington Post. An anchor from Thailand’s national television said
the Beijing Olympics was the most wonderful one in history, and the organizing
work was perfect. The anchor said the
Games provided an opportunity for the world to further understand the
developing China, and
cemented the links between China
and the rest of the world, embodying the slogan “One world, One dream.”


But this year’s Olympics were not without their political
controversies. Chinese officials designated
three areas as official protest zones, but none of the 77 applicants were
granted the right to protest during the Games. Eight American Pro-Tibetan protestors were detained yesterday during the
closing ceremonies after unfurling “Free Tibet” posters and have yet to be
released, despite efforts from the American Ambassador to China. Some journalists that attempted to report on
the protests throughout the Games were roughed up by Chinese officials, but
eventually let go. In their bid for the
Olympic games in 2001, Beijing confirmed to the Olympic Evaluation Commission
“that there would be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of
journalists up to and including the Olympic Games,” but according to a
report in The New York Times, China’s promises have been contradicted by
“strict visa rules, lengthy application processes and worries about
censorship.” Some Western journalists also resented the
lack of open internet access; many “controversial” websites were blocked even
though China
had initially promised to allow media transparency during the Olympics.


Some people believe China should not have been awarded
the Olympic Games due to its human rights record, air pollution, and
intolerance of internal dissent. Others
believe China
has become much more open with its policies in the past few years, and the
success of the Beijing Olympics demonstrates the county’s significant progress. In fact, this year’s Games saw competitors
from more nations than ever before (204) and a record 87 countries won
a medal
during the Games. (Click here
to see a final medal count from the 2008 Olympic Games.) “Despite all kinds of
difficulties before the Games’ opening,” said Afghan journalist Peikar
Farhad,” the Chinese people showed their power to overcome all problems and
made a great Olympic Games.”

What will you
remember most about this year’s Olympic Games?



For more about our take on the Olympics, check out our
recent posts: “What
the Games Will Mean for China”
and “Interactive
Olympics Tools”

2 thoughts on “Beijing Retrospective

  1. I also think China could have incorporated their own traditional characters into the uniforms. The characters, while obviously not understood by everyone, are very artistic and beautiful. It probably would have looked pretty cool, and Ma Jilong’s guidelines would have still been met.
    Uniform choices aside, there were some fantastic performances in Beijing. I won’t soon forget staring in disbelief as Phelps won the 100m fly by a zillionth of a second and how EASY Usain Bolt made breaking world records look. Thanks to NBC’s camera crew, I’ll also never forget what Michael Phelps’ mom looks like!
    Another thing I noticed is something that DIDN’T happen – for all the pre-Olympic concerns about the pollution, it didn’t appear to be a big problem.

  2. This is definitely not what I’ll remember MOST about the Olympics, but one thing I noticed while watching the games was a relative lack of Chinese characters, in lieu of Latin (or Roman)-style lettering.
    For example, the Beijing Olympics logo (check it out at includes Chinese-like- stylistic lettering–a nice touch–but no actual Chinese characters. This is perhaps not all that shocking, as the official languages of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) English and French. But I would have thought that maybe the logo would include BOTH the Latin lettering AND Chinese characters. More surprising was the fact that the Chinese athletes’ UNIFORMS did not even contain any Chinese characters, despite the fact that some other countries’ uniforms DID(e.g. Germany, New Zealand). Check out some examples here: and here:
    So why did the Chinese decide to use Latin lettering exclusively in the logo and on their team uniforms, despite strong nationalistic tendencies in other aspects of the games? Maybe it reflects a true commitment to playing the role of welcoming host to the international community, or a sign of the times as increasing numbers of Chinese learn the Latin alphabet. Perhaps this excerpt from uniform contest guidelines can provide a clue (thanks Jake):
    “”…Ma Jilong, director of the Administration Center for Sports Equipment under the General Administration of Sport, says that the uniform design should not only feature traditional Chinese elements but also include modern creative ideas that accord with the need of a great international event.
    He also added that the design must avoid nihilism and ultranationalism.
    The design competition organizer emphasized that the Olympic uniform design should be easily understood and accepted by both Chinese and foreigners.”
    Did you notice a lack of Chinese characters at the Olympics? What do you think about the decision?

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