The New Zealand media are all set to go gaga as the countdown to the Olympic Games opening ceremony begins.

In the case of TVNZ, having spent $15 million of NZ On Air money (money that was supposed to be used to fund programmes that otherwise would not be made) acquiring the games screening rights, it really is cranking up the gaga.

Apparently, according to Television One’s promos, four million people will be coming together as ‘one’ over the next three weeks.

Of course, what is threatening to crash the party is China’s appalling human rights record.

The media have done a few stories on this, but it’s a safe bet that such stories will disappear in the coming days under a ton of nationalistic jingoism.

Western apologists for the Chinese regime say that it is through such events as the Olympic Games and, oh, free trade agreements, that the Chinese regime can be ‘enlightened’ as to the ways of western democracy.

This argument flies in the face of reality.

In the Chinese factories within ‘free trade zones’, western companies are churning out clothing, electronic goods, white ware, sports shoes, and canned food. You name it and, more than likely, a western company is making it in low-wage China.

The Chinese state apparatus, with its military, police and vast surveillance system, has been harnessed to serve the needs of such brand leaders as Nike and Phillips.

This is the ‘modern China’ that we will see over the next three weeks but it won’t be reported that way in the corporate media.

Rather the emphasis will be on the spectacle.

On TV1'a Close Up a couple of nights ago Mark Sainsbury was in awe of the national stadium in Beijing and the ‘sheer size’ (his words) of it.

The architect who designed the Beijing National Stadium, Ai Weiwei, has not been invited to attend the opening ceremony – although he says he would not have attended anyway,

He told the New York Times: 'If I need to be more clear on why I’m not willing to be part of the ceremony, it’s that I think it’s too far from the spirit of freedom. I’ve always thought of this ceremony as a product of government bureaucracy, rather than a natural celebration and expression generated among free citizens. I feel that there are too many regrets in this ceremony, which could make me unhappy.’

He has labelled these Olympics the ‘pretend smile’ Olympics:

‘I did say it’s a “pretend smile.” I was questioning whether it’s possible for a society that doesn’t have democracy to excite the joys and celebrations of its people. And is it possible for such a society to win international recognition and approval when liberty and freedom of expression are lacking? There are all kinds of efforts under way that are means for stricter and tighter control. When these new security rules and restrictions are put in place, how can one smile and perform, cheer and pose?’ (New York Times, August 4)

But it seems that western journalists like Mark Sainsbury are all too eager to believe the ‘pretend smile’ of these Olympic Games.


  1. Of course the media is going to report on the spectacle. I'm watching the opening ceremony right now - it's a bloody amazing spectacle!

    China has some serious human rights issues to deal with, but it's getting far better than it was, now that it's making a turn toward capitalism. China was infinately worse and is slowly getting better.

    What you need to remember is that aside from all the feel good slogans and ideas, the Olympics is about the very best athletes from around the world competing against each other after years and years of training and sacrifice. We should all be able to apreciate that, and marvel in that spectacle. The Olympics is not about a country, it's about the individual athletes.

  2. Steve you speak elsewhere about about mainstream media ignoring the brave efforts of Venezuela defing the dictates of western economic hegemony....choosing a self determined outcome for its people via Chavez...well in my view China has done the same, for far longer, it has narrowly evaded subjugation by the west and fought hard to determine its own economic and political system, albiet one borrowed from Marx and european ideas. Thgis process is not a cheap chioce, it requires both unity from within, something China has achieved at a great cost in terms of the persecution of internal dissidents, and it has required defending its self from the rapacious attacks both anticipated and real from western powers, thus Tibet was essential to the strategic defense of China in the nuclear age. The cost of self determination is high, but it is that or to be broken up and under the thumb of the west like africa latin america and much of asia....China has paid the price and now, as the west crumbles under the decadence of modern western culture, provides as much of an alternative, perhaps more, than Venezuela or Iran.


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