Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How London Can Surpass Beijing

Already the prejudgment is being bandied about that there is no way that the Summer Olympics in London, in 2012, will be able to compete with the majesty and spectacle that were the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. However, the commonsensical among us know that peoples' memories of the Beijing Olympics will forever be tainted by the smoke and mirrors placed before them, both at the location itself and on television screens around the world. What was gained in Beijing in 2008 was not an accurate picture of what the People's Republic of China is, but a picture of what the Communist rulers of that country want foreigners to think China is. They knew as well as any tourist-targeting con artist that "the West" is fascinated by "the East", and so they showed the world a more palatable, more fantastical China than actually exists. And gullible as we are, the ruse mostly worked.

Needless to say, the defeatist commentaries about the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games are quite premature. The mainstream media hasn't helped matters much; that more and more people are inclined to think that China's Olympics will be the standard by which all others will in the future be judged is not because Beijing's Games deserve such praise, but rather because over the past few years, more and more people have been taken in by the mainstream media's mantra that "China is the future, and you - we - are the past." But underneath the celebration of thousands of years of Chinese culture present at these most recent Games was an unspoken celebration, held by the Chinese Communist rulers, of their authoritarian power. Beijing's 2008 hosting of the Summer Olympics was a victory not for the Chinese people, but their unelected, unrepresentative government.

Unlike those already predicting mediocrity - juxtaposed with Beijing's majesty - for London's moment in 2012, my attitude is different. Though I am an American, and furthermore, an American who has yet to visit London, I've seen enough of the world and read enough of its works to know Western (Westernized) countries don't need a pseudo-fascist spectacle on a Chinese scale to demonstrate the worth or wealth of their cultural, historic contributions to humanity. If, of course, London and the United Kingdom together wish to try to outdo the Chinese in covering up failures and, in general, sugar-coating the reality of life for most Britons, then they probably will fail: The British Government isn't nearly as ruthless as the Chinese Government is, and besides, such deception would be much harder in an English free society than in a Chinese fear society, given the presence of a free press.

Depending on the length of visitors' memories and their attachment to - or detachment from - reality, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics will be a study in contrasts that, in the end, will surely favor London over Beijing in posterity. How can I say this? I do so with the confidence of one who was raised in a free country, and who appreciates the gift of personal liberty he was born with. Whereas a successful Beijing Olympics is a triumph for a Government that owes no allegiance to and feels no responsibility toward the people living under it, the London Olympics will be a triumph of a free people who voluntarily volunteer - as opposed to the Chinese practice of "coercive volunteerism" - to make those Games be as enjoyable and exciting as possible, giving visitors a small taste of what makes Great Britain...great.

What's more, if something goes wrong at the 2012 London Olympics - say, things fall behind schedule, or fireworks don't go off as planned, or if hooligans disrupt events - it would result in a Games which reflected an unpredictable, often chaotic human reality far more than Beijing's controlled, precise, order. Yes, a part of me hopes that London 2012 won't go as smoothly as Beijing 2008, because then free peoples might realize what an anomaly - what a sham - were the Communists' "perfect" Games. And despite the tendency to attempt to separate politics from sport each Olympics, protests - say, against China's continued attempts at ridding Tibet of Tibetan heritage, culture and religion - won't likely be violently (or worse, silently) put down by police who serve their government more than their citizenry (as was - is - the case in China).

Though we are four years away from seeing what will become of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, I'm already optimistic about their success. I predict the 2012 London Games will give a free multicultural society - indeed, all such societies - reason to celebrate, and that the 2008 Games hosted by Communist, monocultural China will be fondly remembered, but as something of a cautionary tale. And I can't really worry my mind with whether China will in London once again win more gold medals than the U.S.A., since I know that America's success in 2012 won't be judged - at least by me - by how well the Government trains athletes, but rather by the individual accomplishments of athletes from all over the Union (and let's not forget, in 2008 the U.S. did have 110 total medals to China's total of 100).

Thankfully, our "power" - cultural, political, economic...athletic - isn't as centralized (read: as weak) as China's.

2008's Olympic Games truly sparked the imagination, but they were a triumph of fascism and conformity - cleverly packaged as Communist, with Chinese symbols - over individuality, liberty and self-expression. Except by those who were willfully duped by the Chinese, this can't be denied. Sure, the 2012 Summer Games in London - heck, even the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - might be "boring" compared to Beijing, but at least they will not likely be as nationalistically self-congratulatory as Communist China's 2008 Summer Olympics. That, I think, will come as no small relief to a lot of people. And in 2012, people will be able to be themselves (i.e., freely speak their minds, without fear of imprisonment by the authorities for doing so) in the host country.

By that my mind...London already has surpassed Beijing.

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