On Medal Counts…

Andy R.

Well, it had to be brought up eventually and after reading this post, I felt obliged to write my thoughts on one of the stupidest aspects of the Olympics:  the medal count.  If you’ve been watching over here in China you are reminded of it by CCTV at pretty much every commercial break, probably very similar to what my family is seeing on NBC back home.  The only difference being that the numbers are naturally interpreted differently depending on which side of the Pacific you are watching from.

In the post linked above, the charge is that the U.S. is “cooking the books” to make it look like they are ahead.   Unlike the Chinese method which says that a country with 1 gold medal should be ranked above a country wth 2, 3, or even 100 silver medals, the U.S. system puts equal value on all medals and just does a simple tally of the total.  To my knowledge, this U.S. way of counting medals is nothing new despite the post’s claims that the Americans have “invented” a new way of counting in order to keep the lead. (Have the Chinese used the method described above in past Olympics as well?  Any other methods out there?)

Obviously, both methods have their flaws.  The U.S. system probably unfairly removes the “worth” of a gold versus a silver versus a bronze medal (the medal that make orphans cry), while the logic of the Chinese system seems to break down when you can have countries with multiple athletes receiving silver and bronze awards ranked below those that only have a single gold medal winner. (More of a “Gold Medal Count” than a “Medal Count” in my opinion, but to each his own…)

Personally, I wish the IOC could just ban broadcasts of the medal tallies and let the crazy nationalists of the world who HAVE to know which country is the “best” tally things at home, either that or have an official IOC-sanctioned tally that takes the question of “how to count medals” off the table.  On the other extreme, you could ban national symbols of any kind be used during the Olympics with the focus on individual rather than national performances, but I guess that would be against what the event is about, if not a little more gentle on the international community’s increasingly fragile nerves…

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Olympic round-up

Raj

The Olympics have only recently kicked off, but there is already a lot to talk about. For example, Michael Phelps is bidding to win an unprecedented eight gold medals in the swimming, something that he could quite possibly do – one down, seven to go. But regardless of whether he can reach this target or not, all Americans should feel proud of him anyway – even with a “mediocre” haul this year he would still be one of the most impressive athletes ever to contest the Games.

But perhaps some of the more interesting news deals with events surrounding the Olympics. The start was tainted by the sad murder of an American tourist, Todd Bachman, by some psychopathic Chinese man, who then himself committed suicide. But what I found even more horrifying were allegations that the Chinese authorities have been trying to sweep this under the carpet.

Chinese residents who lived and worked close to the scene of the crime appeared to be under orders not to discuss the incident. ‘Why are you paying so much attention to this? Murders happen all the time. You should pay attention to the two gold medals that China won today,’ said a middle-aged woman in a flower-patterned shirt.

Yes, so long as China tops the medal table who cares if visitors to Beijing are murdered?

We can hope that the report is wrong, but what this woman said seems like a typical result of Chinese propaganda enforcement. When people are told to ignore bad news and focus on the good, comments like these slip out. The other explanation, that this was a genuine view, would be even more terrible if it reflected a wider attitude and would indicate that Chinese nationalism being whipped up by the CCP over the Olympics is now leading many Chinese people to abandon common-sense.

Then we had the eruption of conflict in Georgia, with Russian troops responding to an attempt by Tbilisi to bring the rebel region of South Ossetia under its control – thousands may have died already. There have also been reports of gun-fights and attempted bombings in Xinjiang.

In regards to overly optimistic hopes that the Olympics would lead to greater openness/freedom in China, AP reports that human rights activist Zeng Jinyan has “disappeared”.

A Chinese human rights activist whose husband was jailed earlier this year has disappeared and may have been taken by police to prevent her from speaking to journalists during the Beijing Olympics, an overseas-based human rights group said Friday.

The group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Zeng Jinyan disappeared on Thursday and has not been heard from. Zeng is married to activist Hu Jia, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in April.

I’m sure the Chinese authorities will claim that she has wandered off on his own accord and have no idea where he is. That’s CCP regional monitoring at its best – its defence to detention of people who give a damn about something other than their own interests is that it has no idea what the local authorities are doing. If that’s the supposedly “efficient” Communist autocracy that we’re repeatedly told is China’s only future, God forbid that we see chaos and incompetance from the CCP.

Furthermore it appears that anyone asking for a protest permit is being turned down – what a surprise! Indeed, it’s an even better wheeze for the Chinese authorities, as they can use the lure of Olympic protest to flush out protestors and detain/arrest them. Not unlike the way Mao used the Hundred Flowers Campaign to identify and then silence his critics and potential opponents.

A housing activist who applied for permission to hold a demonstration in Beijing’s specially designated Olympic protest zones has been detained by police. The detention of Zhang Wei, whose home was demolished two years ago to make way for an upmarket development in Beijing’s Qianmen district, highlights the Chinese government’s crackdown on dissent ahead of the opening of the games on Friday.

Police detained Ms Zhang on Wednesday for allegedly “disturbing social order”, a member of her family said on Thursday. She was told Ms Zhang would be transferred to a detention centre in south Beijing, family members said.

Yes, “distburbing social order”. Otherwise known as “highlighting the not-so-heroic actions of the Chinese ruling party” and spoiling their attempts to trick the Chinese people into think that they are practically-perfect-in-every-way. This theme is continued by the laughable assertions of Wang Wei, who said that blocking websites is “good” for Chinese people.

“That’s an assessment made by the authorities of which sites are good and which are not good for our youth. It’s like what any other country does.”

Perhaps Wang would like to tell us what websites critical of the ruling Labour Party and its policies are blocked in the UK? Conservatives.com? libdems.org.uk?

The feeble rebuttals of Jacques Rogge, IOC chief puppet, to examples of China violating its Olympic promises continue.

“But there will be a review of what happened when we come to audit the Games when they are over.”

Yes, after the Olympics are over and the CCP has already have extracted maximum propaganda effect from it, the IOC can come down hard for the 2012 Olympics to ensure that us Brits don’t block websites for criticising the UK – which we already doesn’t do…..

Does the IOC have any shame? Guess not – the flood of dollars and yuan make up for that.

Finally we have the damning comments of a former top Party official, Bao Tong, on the way China trains its athletes.

It is very naive to take the number of gold medals won as an indicator of the rise of China. That sort of patriotism…has nothing to do with the Olympic spirit…

China has sponsored a top-down professionalized system, a totally segregated approach to athletic training… It has its roots in the Chinese Communist Party’s experience of the 1927-37 Chinese civil war, when peasants who relied on the land for their existence took up arms as their revolutionary duty to fight for a share of it. In the process, they were torn away from their families, from the rest of society, and from normal economic activities…

China’s athletes are chosen as young children…and taken away from their families, from their schools, and totally cut off from normal social activities. The door is closed, and they give up their entire youth and part of their childhoods for the sole aim of entering and winning competitions, an aim for which they are totally re-molded by the system.

The whole article should be read, but I thought these comments especially good:

China’s array of medals and prizes was produced out of the sweat, tears, and lives of generations of athletes and paralympians…You can’t use the achievements of our young people to cover up or to dilute the mistakes of the country’s leaders.

That the CCP tries to do that shows its real nature. To it, any Chinese person is a “natural resource” that can be exploited in any way, at any time, to prolong its rule.

There is one clear barometer of how good a political system is. It’s no good listening to what people say; mouths are very unreliable. You have to look at what the feet are doing. A good system will attract people. People in China may be living quite happily, and foreigners may make light of traveling a thousand miles to visit. But would they want to emigrate here? When they have seen the Olympics, seen the show, and had a chance to understand Chinese people a bit better, and to compare China to their own country, then what? I am certain that while they will say a lot of nice things about China, they are not going to start flooding in to live here. Whereas Chinese people would be leaving in their tens of thousands if the opportunity was there.

Quite true.

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Time for China to vote for sanctions on Zimbabwe

Raj

Little needs to be said about the horrible situation in Zimbabwe – the stolen election, the attacks on opposition supporters, holding food back from people unless they voted for the Zanu-PF. The question is, will China continue to protect Mugabe?

UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China that are friendly to Mugabe are expected to block sanctions against the Zimbabwean leader

There is an alternative view that Russia doesn’t care that much so will not use its veto – that just leaves China.

Why would China back Mugabe? The country is not energy rich, nor is it a strategic base for Chinese military forces. So might China try to protect him because it sympathises with his suppression of opposition, or because it may want to use him as a way of deflecting international attention away from its own problems? I don’t know, but it would be foolish to help him out.

With all the criticism of China in just the last year, let alone the years before that, this would be a good time to show the world that it does care about atrocities outside its own borders, that China could be a positive world leader rather than a “I’m alright, Jack” country who could never be relied upon when the chips are down.

China would have a lot to gain and nothing to lose, save the belief that one can do whatever one pleases within one’s borders. Sadly that selfish attitude might be what motivates the CCP to oppose sanctions. If China decides to block sanctions, given all that has happened/is stil happening in Zimbabwe, it would cause even more trouble for the Beijing Olympics. I would like to be pleasantly surprised, but that would only be if China votes positively for sanctions – insisting they be watered down (though the proposals are hardly punitive as they are), not voting or not vetoing would be a case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it.

For those who may be unconvinced by recent media reports of “Uncle Bob”‘s betrayal of his own people, take a look at this video.

Shepherd Yuda, 36, fled the country this week with his wife and children. He said that he hoped the film, which was made for the Guardian, would help draw further attention to the violence and corruption in Zimbabwe. Much of the footage was shot inside the country’s notorious jail system. Yuda, who has worked in the prison service for 13 years, was motivated by the intensifying violence directed towards the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the murder, two months ago, of his uncle, a MDC activist…..

“I had never seen that kind of violence before,” said Yuda, of the run-up to the election. “How can a government that claimed to be democratically elected kill its people, murder its people, torture its people?”

The film, made for Guardian Films, shows how Yuda and his colleagues at Harare central jail had to fill in their ballots in front of Zanu-PF activists. Yuda also obtained footage of Zanu-PF rallies where voters were told they should pretend to be illiterate so that an official could fill in their ballot for them on behalf of Mugabe.

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Best Olympics ever, but not if you like sailing

Mutant seaweed may sink sailing hopes at Beijing Olympics

They have battled dense smog, strong tides and no wind but now British sailors training for the Beijing Games are contending with mutant seaweed that has invaded the Olympic venue in China.

The bright green algae, described as “thick as a carpet”, is making it impossible for dinghies to navigate the course that will host the Olympic regattas in less than two months.

Wrapping itself around keels, bringing the boats to a standstill, the seaweed is believed by experts to have drifted in from the Yellow Sea to the eastern coastal city on the back of bad weather during the past month.

Apparently China has deployed a rapid-reaction force of skilled engineers to deal with this problem.

Local fishermen are struggling to clear the area, armed only with their nets slung over the side of their small boats.

So what exactly is plan B, if this doesn’t work?

But of course this has nothing to do with China’s ever more serious pollution problem.

The theories about its cause include recent inland flooding caused by typhoons and global warming. Chinese officials deny that its presence in Qingdao — now living up to the Chinese translation of “green island” — is the result of pollution.

But, hey, I guess there’s no problem because China isn’t expecting to win any medals in this area anyway….

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“Beijing Welcomes the World!”

Just read this.  What on earth are they thinking?

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