(Fake) Day 1 of the Beijing Olympics

The Olympics unofficially kicked off yesterday with women's soccer around China. The Chinese squad looked pretty good in Shenyang yesterday. An early first half goal was matched by a Swedish response, but great teamwork between Xu Yuan and Han Duan led to Han putting away a goal late in the 2nd half to give China the 2-1 victory. In the other game from Shenyang, Canada beat Argentina 2-1.

The US was in action yesterday, but were defeated 2-0 by a strong Norwegian squad. North Korea cruised to a 1-0 win against Nigeria and there were two draws, between Germany-Brazil (0-0) and Japan-New Zealand (2-2).

Men's soccer gets started today, some of the more enticing matches are the US vs. Japan and Argentina vs. Ivory Coast.

A few very boring special Olympic jerseys on a number of the squads, most surprisingly was China's very plain, all-white kits.

Bylines at Customs: Oh the Humanity...

The stupidity begins....

Locals Buy Into Olympic Movement

How many articles will be filed after interviewing people at "Hou Hai"? This is bad, but it gets even worse:

Olympics Clean Up Hides the Real Beijing

Pure laziness. The local "noodle lady" and "popsicle lady". Yes, we care about how this effects you and your fellow reporter who have been in Beijing for less than 2 years. Don't find lifelong residents who were affected by the changes, just use your own anecdotal tales.

There's more of this kind of stupidity to come, I'm sure...

Blogging (or Not) the Olympics

The consortium that is "A Modern Lei Feng" has come together and been discussing how to treat the Olympics. The world's largest sporting event is in our backyard, the spiritual home of this blog, what should we do?

We have contributors in Beijing, around China, and in many past (and future) Olympic cities, including Tokyo, London, Atlanta, and Chicago (fingers crossed for 2016!). However, we've decided that no matter what, constant live-blogging from all these locales won't make much difference. We know our readership isn't very large and if it hasn't gotten big before the Games, it's not going to change during them. Plus, there are so many reporters who have much better access than us. Beyond that, for our contributors in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenyang, the Olympics should be about enjoying the spirit and excitement of the times, this once in a lifetime experience, instead of rushing to a computer to constantly write down their thoughts.

Therefore, for the next few weeks, we'll bring you regular content if/when there's a big story and perhaps offer some daily Olympic updates, but there will be no over the top or special coverage. Enjoy the blog and enjoy these Olympics!

Embarassed to be an American

Will we find out later that the black masks were some kind of political statement that these American athletes wanted to make? Were they really just concerned about the pollution?

US cyclists arrived in Beijing yesterday and many of them were wearing the above, almost Hannibal Lectoresque masks to "protect" themselves from the pollution. It should be noted, of course, that the picture was taken INSIDE and, at last check, there is no smog in the Beijing Airport, indeed the air is very clean.

Air quality isn't exactly great today and continues to be the top story in all the Western media, as it will be unless things get better fast. There is still hope, but the Opening Ceremony is now little more than 48 hours away and the first events (women's soccer) are about to kick off in less than an hour. However, these athletes were INSIDE a building, only to be quickly whisked onto a bus and then driven to the Olympic Village, surely they would spend a combined total of less than 15 minutes outside.

So why the masks? It's just a slap in the face of the host country and totally needless. Yes, the air looks bad, but its hardly harmful and there's absolutely no need for these cyclists to be wearing masks. Then again, maybe you believe the IOC's medical chief who claims that the air is misty, not polluted (the Chinese government should hire this guy to do their international PR immediately), but I don't. I cycle in Beijing on a daily basis and I've never worn a mask, it's just not necessary.

Unless, of course, the masks were meant as a political statement attacking the Chinese government. I could believe this, the masks were black and they were covering their mouths, but why not make mention of this. If they wait until after the Games when they are back in the US to tell us the meaning of their "protest", will anybody care at that point?

It's simply embarrassing, let's hope no other Americans do something this stupid.

The US cyclists have (rightly) apologized publicly.

Who Are the Games For Anyways?

Perhaps this is a rant out of frustration more than anything, but more than broken promises over the internet, more than the pollution, the story that should get reported is about what these festivities mean to the average person, the laobaixing, and who has a chance to enjoy them.

Last night, the final rehearsal of the Opening Ceremonies took place at the Bird's Nest. There were numerous news stories about this ahead of time and it seemed like BOCOG was hoping for people to come out and try to experience it, even if it was just watching the fireworks from outside the stadium. Unfortunately, unlike previous rehearsals, those who wished to catch a look at the preparations were forced to sneak a peak from far away from the venue as security was out in force. I can understand the security risk on August 8th, but why weren't the common people allowed to get within a mile of the stadium last night?

Then there was the beginning of the Beijing leg of the torch relay in Tiananmen Square this morning, unfortunately if you were not bused in by the government or an official sponsor, you couldn't get anywhere near Changan Road. Does the government think they are fooling people with the evenly spaced wavers of the Chinese flag and the Beijing Olympics flag? This Potemkin relay, closed to the general public, kills the spirit and the whole point of the torch relay, to let the masses get a taste of the Olympic spirit and enjoy the festivities. It was a bleak picture of the "Olympic spirit" as a large group of common people gathered around a small tv in a shop and watched the torch pass by just off Changan Rd, even though the torch was only 200 feet away from where they were standing, a huge contingent of police and soldiers prevented them from getting anywhere near Changan Rd. It's a disgrace...

Who Is it Going to Be?

There has been a lot of speculation as to who the final torch bearer will be for the Beijing Olympics, the individual who gets to light the cauldron in the Bird's Nest on 8/8. The IOC has a rule that an individual can only be a torchbearer once during each relay, so therefore Liu Xiang, who many suspected it would be, was ruled out, since he was the first torch bearer when the relay was started in Tiananmen Square many months ago.

With Liu Xiang out of the picture, smart money was on Yao Ming to be the final torchbearer, but this morning he was the one running out from Tiananmen Gate with the torch, a big surprise. The final torchbearer is (almost?) always an athlete, though many in China believe it should be a group of Sichuan earthquake survivors, which would be a nice touch.

So Yao and Liu have both held the torch, who is the final torchbearer going to be?

The name I've heard being floated around as the final torchbearer and one that would make some sense is Li Ning.  He's a former athlete, a Chinese Olympic hero, and he set up what is quickly becoming a global sportswear company.  The only issue with this, Adidas could be pretty pissed off about the marketing coup that this would give Li Ning.  The flipside?  Perhpas this is BOCOG's apology to Li Ning for the decision to leave and going with Adidas this summer.


Domination in Shanghai, How Things Need To Get Better, and a Black Russian

Olympic coverage here at A Modern Lei Feng will most likely be pretty widespread and in Shanghai yesterday, the US Basketball team was in action against Russia. While the US lost its "Dream Team" moniker long ago, in China, its still being referred to as "Dream Team 8". Unlike in previous years, this edition may actually live up to that name and Chinese NBA fans were out in force to watch Kobe, LeBron, and all the rest in Shanghai yesterday as the teams played in front of a packed, sold out house of nearly 15,000 fans.

The US squad trounced the Russians, 89-68, and much like in previous warmups to the Beijing Olympics, the result was never in doubt. From the very beginning, it was also obvious which team the crowd was there to see, as the chant of "MVP" began from Kobe's very first touch of the ball. The Russian squad was stronger than what they'd put out during previous warmup games, with the inclusion of NBA star, Andrei Kirilenko, and JR Holden, the first black Russian most people have ever seen.

Options for food inside the stadium were limited to Element Fresh, which was far underprepared for the crowds they got hit by. Prices for sandwiches, salads (RMB20 for both), and drinks (RMB5) were reasonable, but popcorn was RMB25 or 45, a bit steep. Only Coke products were on offer, though Gatorade had a stall offering free tiny cups to sample. The beer was Carlsberg, and was provided by popular Shanghai sports bar, the Big Bambou.

Finally, for those going to the stadium tomorrow night for the game against Australia, be warned. Due to preparations for Olympic soccer at Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai Indoor Stadium couldn't be used, so the game was played out at Qizhong Tennis Center, a LONG way from downtown Shanghai. Getting to the stadium required a 30 minute cab ride after taking the subway to the end of the line at Xinzhuang. Despite leaving the stadium a little early (only to be met by a downpour), I was unable to find a cab anywhere near the stadium, nor were there any buses to be seen. The cops could only offer a curt "I don't know" when asked where the nearest bus stop was. If not for some very, very kind unknown soul, I would probably still roaming around Minhang District right now. Make sure you have plans or know exactly how to get back to the city!

Are We Moving Toward Overkill?

I have no problem with security when it helps to make me feel secure from potential threats. Security is high in Beijing, and whether you believe there are threats or not, it's only getting higher. The attack today in Xinjiang will only make the government more antsy about things in Beijing. In many major cities around the world, its common to go through airport style metal detectors and have your bags scanned when you enter important office buildings. Thus, it should come as no surprise that metal detectors and security checks will become the norm at major office buildings around Beijing.

So now, a number of friends are complaining that from the time they leave their house to the time they get into the office each morning, they'll face 3 security checks. Is Beijing going a bit too far with the idea of safety?


Olympics Style: China's Nike Designs Up Close

As was previously discussed here, despite Adidas officially sponsoring China (and the Olympics), Nike will be outfitting over 20 different Chinese Olympic teams during the Games, including many of China's biggest stars. Originally when I saw the US and Chinese basketball jerseys, I thought it was boring that they used the same pattern on the back and guessed that all Nike teams would be using it. However, now it is apparent that the patterns are very different and have cultural specific references on them. These patterns will be part of a number of the Nike uniforms. Here are the pictures below:


Track and Field:


Here is a "close up" of the Chinese pattern on the women's basketball jersey:

I also saw these and loved the idea of them, Nike's venturing into horseback riding, supplying Chinese riders with their riding boots:
The flag plays a central role on many of the uniforms, but strangely enough, none of the Nike gear in stores carries the flag. Still no explanation of why this is yet...


Why Subway Security Doesn't Make Me Feel Safe

One of the measures put into place to protect against terrorism during the Games was security checks in all subway stations.  Many thought this would lead to huge lines and big hassles, but it has yet to cause any real problems, even during rush hour, though there is a reason why, every station has a different degree of security.  While Tiananmen East is being patrolled by 3 or 4 subway "security" as well as police officers (and occasionally swat police armed with automatic weapons, forcing me to laugh as I passed by), other stations have one or two subway "security" that are easily dodged.  

It's not only that the security can be avoided (especially by foreigners "playing dumb" when called over in Chinese), it's that they are only checking bags.  For those in Beijing who've witnessed the process from the time the security checks were originally put in place, it's well known that these checks have gotten stricter as we get closer to the Games, but there are still a lot of holes.  The glaring one is that they don't actually check what an individual has on his person or any liquids they may be carrying.  They aren't going to install airport style metal detectors that every individual must go through, nor do they test liquids, so all they are doing is forcing would be terrorists to move any weapons from their bag to their person.

With the threat of terrorism supposedly very real, these "security checks" do little to make me feel safer on the subway.  Either get serious about security or give it up, none of this half-assedness that we've come to expect from the government.  Terrorists are usually more committed to their attack then police are at stopping them, but the "security checks" in place are only for show and will do little to deter or stop a real terrorist.

Bylines at Customs: Is China Asking For Negative Stories?!?

The top media story with only 7 days until the Opening Ceremonies isn't about how beautiful the weather is in Beijing today, but instead it's focused on how the internet is censored for foreign reporters. We were going to stay away from this topic, but then we got to talking more and more about it, and there is only one logical conclusion (if you can call it that) we could reach, China wants foreign reporters to write negative stories. It seems that the IOC agreed to China's internet censorship, but that's not important.

The one question we keep asking is why? Foreign reporters, mostly from the US and Europe are free to use the internet all they want to read negative stories about China in their home country. While China censors websites, it can't censor emails, so if a reporter finds a story or a website he wants to read, all he needs to do is have a colleague back home cut and paste the article and email it to him and he can then read away.

If China would have stuck to what seemed to be its original promise and left the internet uncensored for reporters, this wouldn't be a story, or at most it might have been talked about as a positive development (though I can imagine a reporter or two would write about how, despite the fact they could view the websites, the average Chinese was unable to, blah blah blah). Instead it stated that its initial promise was to not censor any stories connected to the Games (as if there was any reason they would to begin with).

It would seem the decision to censor was to create bad press even before the Games began so that they could rally against the"bias" of the Western media. What other rational explanation could there be for such an idiotic policy? Or am I giving the powers that be at BOCOG too much credit, are they really that stupid?