Tuesday 26 August 2008

Some New Things We Know About The Olympics

We know that the Beijing Games was probably the most orchestrated attempt since the Berlin Olympics in 1936 to show that a nation is a rising power that should command respect.

We know that a country can secure an enormous return by spending $41 billion, including more gold medals than any other nation and the attendance of world leaders at the Olympics despite their apparent misgivings about China’s human rights record.

We know that the worldwide Olympic torch protests seem like a very long time ago now…

We know that during the 2008 Games, there were 53 detained pro-Tibet activists, 77 rejected protest applications from 149 individuals, at least 15 Chinese citizens arrested for seeking to protest, about 10 dissidents jailed and at least 30 websites blocked. At least 50 human-rights activists were expelled from Beijing, harassed or placed under house arrest during the Olympics, according to Reporters Without Borders. There were 30 cases of government interference in the reporting work of foreign media, included 10 cases of journalists being beaten or roughed up by police who sometimes smashed their cameras, according to the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China. While bidding in April 2001 for to host the 2008 Olympics, the Executive Vice President of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee Liu Jingmin said that "by allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help the development of human rights. China and the outside world need to integrate. China’s opening up is irreversible. The Olympic Games is a good opportunity to promote understanding."

We know that Liu Jingmin is not someone that we'd want to buy a used car from...

We know that the International Olympic Committee sells sponsorships in four-year increments to cover both Winter and Summer Games and twelve companies paid $866 million, or an average of $72 million apiece, to sponsor the Turin and Beijing Games. That's almost one-third more than the $663 million total paid to back the Salt Lake City and Athens Games in 2002. Hilariously, we also know that a survey of 1,500 Beijing residents in early 2008 by Fournaise Marketing Group found that only 15% could name two of the 12 sponsors and just 40% could name one sponsor: Coca-Cola.

We know that there were 313 British athletes in Beijing but more than 600 publicly-funded employees, including government ministers, press officers, local councillors, police officers and 437 BBC staff.

We know that the number of medals won in Beijing by “Team GB” has led to a call for pushing Britain into third place in the medal tables in 2012, meaning that the chances of funding elite athletes by cutting community sport is now even greater.

We know that the organisers of London’s contribution to the closing ceremony in Beijing had even less of a clue about how to symbolise cosmopolitan Britain than the government had when struggling to work out what the hell to put in the Millennium Dome.

We know that the government’s fixation with defining national identity will have become even worse with the tabloid stories about ‘British heroes’ and the slapping down of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond

We know that winning a gold medal isn’t always enough. Swimmer Rebecca Adlington’s desire to follow Olympic success with appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear says as much about Britain’s obsession with celebrity as David Beckham’s appearance at the closing ceremony next to a London bus.

And we know that a 2012 Olympics involving Boris Johnston adds insult to injury...

PS: we know that 'The Great Escape' plans for getting out of London in four years time have already begun: visit Escape2012 for more information.

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