August 2008

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A sigh of relief

If you’re in Beijing, rise early in the morning when the city is quieter … be careful not to make any noise … and you can hear the faint sigh of relief which is wafted in the temporarily unsmogged breeze now the Olympics are over.

Here are two Chinese jokes which illustrate it well:

1. The chinese word for ‘to avoid becoming pregnant’ (biyun) is a homophone for the phrase meaning ‘to escape from the Olympics’ – a pun ready for the picking.

2. “At the closing ceremony, IOC president Jacques Rogge announces that the Olympics were so successful that they will be held in Beijing again in 2012, instead of London. The news sends millions of Chinese into a faint. Even the doctors swoon. Only the police are strong enough to withstand the news, and shout in unison: ‘Go to hell, Rogge!’ ”
(Hat tip: China Rises)

Now it’s all over, China lives (to quote an allegedly Western fabrication of an ancient Chinese curse) in interesting times.

Curious what the Chinese thought of London’s 8 minute skit at Sunday night’s closing ceremony? Here are a few titbits I can share having been in the sweaty audience:

1. They love David Beckham. BIG cheer.
2. Next to no-one understood who the lollipop lady was.
3. Most were puzzled why the little girl was walking across the backs of the dancers. Does everyone in London walk like that?
4. Even those who speak English couldn’t understand what the hell Leona Lewis was singing (b.t.w., I wonder if she lip-synched?).

Online, one netizen was impressed Britain only spent £2 million. Most of which, I venture, went to Beckham for kicking a football all of twenty yards. But here’s my pick of the comments I read:

i especially hated the outfit of the leona lewis and the gal playing the violin. i wud have rather enjoyed elton john singing on his piano.

There’s time yet, come 2012. I think we’re desperate enough.

High fliers

I couldn’t resist posting this photo I took at the closing ceremony of the Olympics on Sunday night (nor could I resist playing with my new wide-angle lens) :

Whoever called China the worlds new high fliers?

Whoever called China the world's new high fliers?

Auspicious numbers?

An advantage of opening the Olympics on 8.8.08 is that few will have wondered what hour of the evening it was likely to kick off. Wang Wei, VP of the BOCOG, told Radio 4 that morning:

Hopefully this lucky day will bring luck to the opening ceremony. According to the weather forecast, there will be light showers, outside the air quality looks a little bit misty, so I think tonight will be lucky.

An odd conception of lucky as far as the weather goes. As a resident of Oxford for 22 years, I sympathize when you live in a city where showers and mist count as good weather.

If 8pm on 8.8.08 is already ridiculously auspicious, then 8.8.88 is one better. (Seoul missed that trick, which is perhaps why their doves were burnt to death by the Olympic flame.) That’s the date, if you remember, of widespread protests across Burma – hundreds of thousands of Burmese chanting “We want democracy” and sporting the symbolic image of a fighting peacock. Human rights groups claim over 3,000 protesters were killed when the army opened fire.

So maybe 8.8.08 isn’t so lucky, if it calls to mind such comparisons – what with the trigger-happy Western media scouting for angles on the Olympics. And let’s not forget that the day in 2001 when China won its Olympic bid was a Friday the 13th – which means nothing to Chinese, but a lot to superstitious folks in the West.

6 is a similar story. It’s auspicious in China: ‘liu’ (the Mandarin) sounds like the word for ‘flowing’ or ‘smooth’. 666 is especially lucky. Not so in the West. Let’s hope this blog picks up that oriental luck, and occidentally – well, it can still be a devilishly good read.

A new day …

… a new blog. The focus of Six will be what young Chinese in Beijing are thinking, talking and frittering away their time on. If the future belongs to China (according to some), and a country’s youth is its future (according to most), then China owns all young people. This disturbing syllogism aside, China’s ‘rise’ is likely to be defined by my generation: it sure isn’t finished today, which marks the end of the Olympics. That’s a beginning in disguise.

Six reoccurring characters will emerge in a narrative. The focus is a soft one, with plenty else creeping in at the sides. It always seems to, in China.