The Olympics In China – What's Going On ?

The Olympics are on 19 days away now and here are some items about the Chinese government’s efforts to control every aspect – From the environment to what people can see and hear.

Illustration by James C. Best Jr./The New York Times

How they are combating pollution, or not as the following item reports:

Beijing Begins Massive Shutdown To Curb Pollution Before Olympics

Beijing’s Olympic shutdown begins Sunday, a drastic plan to lift the Chinese capital’s gray shroud of pollution just three weeks ahead of the games.

Half of Beijing’s 3.3 million vehicles will be pulled off the roads and many polluting factories will be shuttered. Chemical plants, power stations and foundries left open have to cut emissions by 30 percent _ and dust-spewing construction in the capital will be halted.

In a highly stage-managed Olympics aimed at showing off the rising power of the 21st century, no challenge is greater than producing crystalline air for 10,500 of the world’s greatest athletes.

“Pea-soup air at the opening ceremony would be their worst nightmare,” said Victor Cha, director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University.

Striking venues and $40 billion spent to improve infrastructure cannot mask Beijing’s dirty air. A World Bank study found China is home to 16 of the 20 worst cities for air quality. Three-quarters of the water flowing through urban areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has repeatedly warned that outdoor endurance events lasting more than an hour will be postponed if the air quality is poor.

» Full story

– An item about the American television channel NBC, who paid millions for exclusive coverage of the events for the USA and what will happen and what would they do if anyone protests during the ceremonies:

NBC Officials Uncertain What Censorship They Will Face In China During Olympics

For several years now NBC has meticulously planned all the details for its coverage of the many sports events at the Summer Olympics in China.

But with the Games only 19 days away, many at the network are concerned about how they will be permitted to cover any unscheduled events, like political protests or government crackdowns — or whether the Chinese government will allow them to cover such things at all.

One of the most common hypothetical questions NBC officials have bandied about involves the opening ceremonies on Aug. 8.

Hundreds of athletes will parade into a stadium in front of world leaders, including President Bush, and a huge global television audience. If an athlete holds a protest sign or waves a Tibetan flag, how will the Chinese hosts react? Will the television networks show the scene? How will the Chinese handle the media for the rest of the Games?

The stakes are high for both the network, which paid $900 million for broadcast rights for the Olympics, and the reputation of NBC News. If it covers any controversies aggressively, it risks drawing the ire of the Chinese and interfering with coverage of sports events. But if it shies from coverage of any protests, NBC risks being criticized in the West for kowtowing to China — particularly since its corporate parent, General Electric, is aggressively expanding its investments in China.

It is a moot point actually. Since the broadcasting of pictures from the Olympics will be done by the Chinese government controlled television stations, if there are any protests it will never be seen. The screens will just go black.
» Full story.

– Lastly one from the Guardian about the knock on effect from Bjork’s appearance in Shanghi:

China to screen setlists for anti-government songs

Björk’s protest song forces China’s Ministry of Culture to review musicians who ‘threaten national unity’ or ‘violate religious policy or cultural norms’

Sean Michaels/Friday July 18, 2008

When Björk yelled “Tibet! Tibet!” at a concert in Shanghai earlier this year, she might as well have been shouting “O Chinese government – crack down on foreign artists!” Though the state’s initial response was just to rebuke the Icelandic singer, they have now implemented new policies to guard against musicians who “threaten natural unity”. China will not just be screening artists’ work visas – they will even be screening setlists.

“Any artistic group or individual who has ever engaged in activities that threaten our national sovereignty will not be allowed in,” the Ministry of Culture announced in a statement. Artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas will be under particular scrutiny.

China has already banned pop festivals and restricted outdoor events in the lead-up to this summer’s Olympics, fearing protests or simply unruly crowds. Björk seemed to have protesting in mind when she performed her song Declare Independence in March, throwing Tibet’s name into the mix.

China has occupied Tibet since the 1950s, calling it their own rightful territory. The Tibetan independence movement – long active on the world stage – has received renewed attention in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

China has now promised to ban any performer who “threatens national unity”, “whips up ethnic hatred”, “violates religious policy or cultural norms” or “advocates obscenity or feudalism and superstition”. These conditions are sufficiently vague that we suspect Ringo Starr could be banned, say, just for singing of a superstitious Octopus’s Garden. The Ministry of Culture will also be reviewing setlists for hints of trouble – for example, any songs called Declare Independence. Even encores will be subject to government scrutiny. “Nothing that has not been approved will be allowed to be performed,” they have stated.

» Full article

… always finish with a song:
Bjork - Declare Independence:

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