[guest post by JVW]
Here are some interesting topics at the intersection of sports and global events. Feel free to take one (or more) and run with it in the comments.
(1) Ratings for the opening ceremony were dismal, only about 60% of what they were four years ago when the winter games were held in South Korea. The viewership for the opening ceremony for this past summer’s Tokyo Olympics was also down from 2016, but not by nearly as much.
(2) And ratings for the actual events also seems to have taken a hit. Yes, the time difference is a factor, but it was a factor four years ago too when the daily ratings were higher. No doubt some of this can be attributed to viewers continuing to abandon cable and go to streaming services, but polling suggests that many viewers are actively choosing not to watch any of the events as a protest of China’s ongoing bad behavior.
(3) People (at least those who watched) aren’t happy with NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony in which it is widely held that the network soft-pedaled China’s record on human rights and repression. The cynicism of China selecting an (allegedly) Uyghur athlete to light the Olympic torch was not lost on observers, seeing as how China is reported to be using intermarriage and mandatory sterilization to wipe out that ethnic group within the country’s borders. Recall that one of Dana’s Weekend Open Threads included Bob Costas acknowledging that the International Olympic Committee is “in bed with China,” and it is apparent that his former network is in bed with the IOC, so we got one of them there polyamory things going on.
(4) The Olympic organizers — oh, the hell with it, let’s be honest about it and say the Chinese government — has adopted very strict COVID protocols which are proving controversial. Athletes and other participants who test positive for the virus are being required to quarantine in a hotel until they produce two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart, and there have been widespread reports that the food being delivered to them is ridiculously substandard for general human beings let alone elite athletes, and that the COVID tests they take daily in the hopes of being released from quarantine might not be accurate. The Chinese government is also requiring participants to download an app to their phones (thanks Apple for enabling this via your Apple Store!) to track their daily health and movements in the country, ostensibly for contact tracing but — ever so conveniently — to know where an athlete is and has been at any given moment. Recall that the Speaker of the House of Representatives warned U.S. athletes and officials that they needed to steer clear of vexing the Chinese government by exercising the free speech rights that are guaranteed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document to which China is a signatory.
(5) Here’s a very interesting story about an 18-year-old American-born freestyle skier residing in the Bay Area who three years ago chose to compete for China, the home country of her mother. She is attractive, intelligent, and athletically accomplished, and she met her vast potential the other day by winning the gold medal in the Big Air competition, making her a huge cultural figure in her adopted country. This is causing some stress as she navigates living in two vastly different cultures, while trying to maintain a persona that isn’t offensive to either of them.
(6) The Russians are doing what the Russians do, that is to say their athletes are cheating.
(7) Tennis player Peng Shuai made an appearance in a tightly-controlled (by Chinese “advisors”) interview with French television and then with an evening at ski jumping with IOC head Thomas Bach. She apparently assured everyone that her previous allegations of sexual assault by a high-ranking Chinese government official were just a giant misunderstanding and that she is enjoying her retirement from professional tennis, and naturally that is good enough for the craven and crass IOC.
(8) Closer to home, an Australian artist of Chinese origin named Badiucao created some very clever and pointed parody posters of the Beijing Olympics. Student activists at George Washington University then printed the posters and hung them around campus, thus raising the ire of Chinese students and those who are inclined to mindlessly repeat talking points disseminated by the Chinese Communist Party through the wokesphere. GWU’s cowardly president Mark Wrighton issued the requisite statement expressing dismay at the alleged racism of the posters while mollycoddling the offended students and vowing swift action against the dastardly perpetrators of this outrage. When it finally dawned on Mr. Wrighton what a blithering idiot and mindless simp he was being, he issued a mealy-mouthed half-assed apology, acknowledging that he had failed to fully understand the nature of this symbolic protest. Though I think it is safe to say that had these posters not been created by a Chinese dissident, Wrighton would have doubled down on the racism nonsense because that is the level of stupidity and mendacity to which so many college administrators are willing to rise these day.
I’ll leave you with a link from Perry — Perry Link, that is (sorry, couldn’t resist) — in which he opines that unlike the Beijing Summer Olympics of 2008, these games are not going to improve China’s standing in the eyes of the world and the fiasco that is unfolding is fated to unleash a lot of ill-will towards the totalitarian hosts. He closes his essay with a great anecdote about the opening ceremonies staged nearly fourteen years ago which explains why China’s carefully choreographed presentation is just an illusion:
At the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing games, a seven-year-old named Yang Peiyi sang “Ode to the Motherland,” but, because authorities judged her insufficiently photogenic, she was replaced on camera by nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who lip-synced. Fireworks in the sky appeared as “footprints,” but, because these could not be captured on camera, their image had to be artificially added to the video feed. That was then. Now, all of the snow — and so much else — at the Olympics is artificial, and everybody knows it.
Read Professor Link’s entire essay, and go Team USA (even if I am not tuning in to watch you).