Seeing Red: China’s Olympic Image Channels Fabricated Perfection

So, how ‘bout China’s Olympic debut?  The nation of 1.3 billion has pulled out all the stops so far, wowing a global audience during the opening ceremonies (which were very “electric kool-aid acid test”) with special effects that appealed to every sensory organ, and absconding with the gold medal in women’s gymnastics after their team’s effortless performance shook the U.S. women to their very toned cores.

Both events demonstrated China’s capacity for greatness but, as seems to be an ongoing struggle for the nation, both were tainted by scandals and allegations.  For starters, the pigtailed 9-year-old girl who performed “Ode to the Motherland” before an audience of more than one billion viewers happened to be lip-synching. She was chosen based on her “cuteness,” but another little girl—Yang Peiyi—happened to be a better singer; organizers just felt Yang wasn’t as internationally appealing, so her brief moment of fame came in the form of a voice recording.

From a PR point of view, maybe there isn’t much to talk about, but it struck me as shameful that the literal meaning of image was more important than its connotations. For singers so small, it seems that the greater statement would be one founded upon transparency and sportsmanship, where the true talent is given the stage she deserves.

Then there are the allegations that China’s team of itty-bitty gymnasts don’t actually meet the age requirements (turning 16 in the year 2008), which undermines their victory over the United States. Whether or not they are true, the suspicions are warranted enough to cloud the accomplishment in controversy.

I guess it just reiterates that the Olympics may be greatest demonstration of sportsmanship the world has to offer, but “greatest” is all relative.

By Courtney Barnes

  • Judi Schindler

    I noted that the two itty-bittiest of the Chinese gymnaasts were professionally made up with green eyeshadow, glitter and false eyelashes. I guess someone thought it would make them look older. I further guess that the make-up artists has not seen a Western fashion magazine for 30 years.

  • Ronald E. Childs

    Yes, and I can’t think of bigger non-stories. Basically, China was charged with creating an unforgettable Olympics opening ceremony. They did that, succeeding overwhelmingly, by merging cutting-edge technology with human choreography (something the west never would have thought of–let alone committed the budget to achieve on that scale). So of course, we start picking it apart, calling it everything but what it was: Visionary.

    It was over-the-top, creative thinking, a visual feast, and as far as I know there are no rules stating that the opening ceremonies must be confined to athletes marching in stoically, clad in boring suits with crests on the jacket pockets.

    As for the diminutive athletes, Chinese people are smaller in stature on average. Our journalists and their audiences (us) got their panties all in a bunch because America’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, suburban little daddy’s girls were being beaten handily by a people of color from a non-Democratic society, and we just can’t stand it.

    As for lip synching, have you been to a concert or awards show lately? Jeezus. We originated and mastered the art of lip synching, and employ it more than anyone in the world, and now we want to say who can and cannot use it, and call them fake. Then we have the gall to talk about China’s so-called “obsession with image.” Have you walked past a magazine newsstand anywhere in the U.S. lately?

    The only true “scandal” to be found anywhere in this Olympics is our time-honored, all-American arrogance and drug use and our obsession with counting American medals daily–not their age verification or lack of same. And, thank god they hadn’t seen a Western fashion magazine. The western white woman is not the standard of beauty in the world, whether we’d like to believe it or not, and does not dictate eye shadow.