China with Polish Characteristics

August 7, 2008

The Olympic (in)security

Filed under: Uncategorized — chinatalk @ 3:58 pm

The Olympic countdown is proving to be quite exciting. In less than 24 hours all eyes will be on the National Stadium in Beijing, the so called Bird’s Nest, where the opening ceremony will highlight the result of seven long years of Olympic preparations. The stadium has become a new symbol of modern China and its international ambition, and arguably one of the most heavily guarded places in the country. It’s interesting than, that things have slipped out of control at the Nest this week, not once but twice. The government really lost face when Korean TV journalists attending dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony blatantly broadcast over one minute of footage to their national channel – Beijing’s secret show was out on air for everyone to see.

But at least the journalists were a part of invited audience. Early morning on Tuesday, however, four members of Students for Free Tibet, managed to climb the electric poles in front of the Bird’s Nest and unfurl their banners proclaiming: One World, One Dream, Free Tibet.

How was this possible? Perhaps one could forgive an incident at the Worker’s Stadium near Sanlitun party district, or at one of university gymnasiums, but the National Stadium?

 “It’s ridiculous,” said my Chinese teacher, a native Beijinger. “They put all this pressure on our daily life, enforce strict limits, yet can’t even control what happens at a top sports venue?”

I can see why people get angry. The security has become really tight, with additional cops on the streets, roadblocks around the city and cumbersome checks in the subways. Yet instead of a sense of security, one only finds it more unsettling and anxious. People in the uniforms, just as all the others, are really worried about anything going wrong. None of them could bear to see China’s great event making an embarrassing blunder – so while the atmosphere is increasingly festive, some are visibly on the edge, keeping their fingers crossed. Let’s hope that everything really works out. And that it doesn’t rain on Friday.

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