Posted by: reformedmusings | August 13, 2008

Communism vs. the Olympiad: Form over substance

Communist regimes over their short history have made deception one of their core competencies. Perhaps most famously, the Soviet Union was thought for decades to have a fearsome military machine. We later learned that it was a hollow shell of coarse equipment presented to the world covered with a shiny vernier. Terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, countries like Iran, and disgraced reporters like Dan Rather attempted to follow in those footsteps of deception, but all have found that the democratization of information on the Internet makes deception much more difficult before a skeptical and technically talented world community.

Enter the self-declared People’s Republic of China (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and the 2008 Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony. The Chinese and the press had together hyped the opening for some time leading up to the event. And to be sure, the opening ceremony was very impressive. For me, the human-powered blocks were particularly well done. Overall, the Chinese artists acquitted themselves well before the world in the opening, with no need for embellishment of their unique and captivating performances. But the Chinese leadership did anyway. We found out later that some things weren’t exactly as they seemed, which now tarnishes the whole effort.

First, the stadium wasn’t filled to capacity with paying fans as it appeared on television. China claimed that they had sold out the 6.8 million tickets. Yet, we later found out that they “packed” the opening ceremony and later events with a legion of paid spectators. The UK’s Telegraph reports that China actually hired and trained these “professional” spectators on how to cheer in unison. From the Telegraph’s article:

After denying there was any problem with attendances for several days the Beijing Organising committee have confessed their worries at the poor turn out.

“We are concerned about the fact we do not have full stadia,” said Wang Wei, vice president of Bocog, “We think it is due to the weather, the humidity and then the rain, and on the first couple of days there were not many spectators who showed up.”

So, what to do? Take the typical communist approach–fake it:

To fill the gaps the Chinese have been using huge numbers of yellow-shirted ‘fans’ who occupy blocks of empty seats, clapping and cheering equally for opposing teams.

Armed with inflatable cheering batons, the neutral ‘fans’ who attended several days of pre-Olympic cheerleader training to prepare for the role, clap and chant wildly in unison.

But that’s not all. The Chinese planned dramatic but overly-ambitious footprints in the sky moving into the opening with accompanying fireworks. However, they realized early on that this probably wouldn’t play out well in the real world. So what to do? Fake it, of course. Again the Telegraph reports:

As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird’s Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.

What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.

Note that they worked on these computer effects for “a period of months,” so it wasn’t like the weather turned bad at the last minute (which it didn’t) prompting a great save. No, they planned this deception well in advance.

But aren’t the Olympics about sportsmanship and integrity? This is what passes for integrity in communism–looking good.

Speaking of looking good, the most egregious deception in my opinion was the adorable 9-year-old girl we saw singing so beautifully in a cute red dress. Or did she? It turns out that the music was pre-recorded by 7-year-old Yang Peiyi who had won a national competition for the honor. But, the Chinese leadership decided that Yang Peiyi wasn’t cute enough to represent the country. The Telegraph captures the horror:

“The main consideration was the national interest,” he [Chen Qigang, the music director] said. “The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all the members of the team.”

That was until attention turned to Yang Peiyi’s teeth. Nevertheless, Mr Chen thought the end result a perfect compromise.

“We have a responsibility to face the audience of the whole country, and to be open with this explanation,” he said. “We should all understand it like this: it is a question of the national interest. It is a question of the image of our national music, our national culture.

The face of China on the left, the real singing talent on the right

The face of China on the left (form), the real singing talent on the right (substance)

But who made the real decision? Was it the music director, who had worked with Yang Peiyi? No:

At the last moment a member of the Chinese politburo who was watching a rehearsal pronounced that the winner, a girl called Yang Peiyi, might have a perfect voice but was unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth.

So, the little girl who sang like an angel was good enough to represent the country with her voice, but her teeth were not perfect enough for the Communist public face. Form over substance in a tragedy of political pride. Cut and paste human beings sacrificed to the deception of communism.

Besides the infamous murder of tens of millions of their own citizens, that’s the mantra of communism throughout history: form over substance. The butcher of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse-tung, would be proud. The 21st century Chinese people should be ashamed.

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