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A Chinese view of the Olympic torch

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热度1227票 时间:2008年4月06日 21:52
GUANGZHOU, China,  The Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece, which was broadcast live on China Central TV, at first struck me as odd and incredible. In the eyes of mainland Chinese like me, who grew up with grand television extravaganzas, it was disappointingly simple and dull.

In China, the more weight an event carries the more splendid and impressive it should be. Simplicity and nature are never associated with significant occasions. For those of us in the host country, the 2008 Olympic Games conjure up images of huge crowds of people with one glorious, burning heart.

However, the lighting ceremony caught my attention once I really started to watch it. The high priestess lit the torch by focusing the sun on a concave mirror placed in a container on the ground, while other priestesses in the same white costume danced gently on the hillside, and eight barefoot young men in various sports-related poses stood like statues on the green grass. A strong feeling of sacredness and beauty swept over me, invoking beautiful words from the depths of my mind -- simplicity, nature, cleanliness and harmony.

No one will object if I say that nature, cleanliness and harmony represent aspects of the Olympic spirit. Then, when the torch starts its journey around mainland China on May 4, will this spirit accompany it and bring light to this large, ancient land? I have doubts about this.

I tuned in several other channels after this live broadcast, and found the torch to be a hot topic everywhere, especially in those places where the torch will travel. I suppose this is a good thing, as the torch not only symbolizes the unchanging pursuit of peace over thousands of years, but also many universal values that humanity has been longing for, pursuing and cultivating. But the domestic TV programs told a different story, which brought me some disquietude.

Many local governments in China have begun to build grand structures in order to welcome the Olympic torch. Some of them are completed already, standing almost high enough to overshadow Mount Olympus.

Some other local governments treat the passage of the torch through their jurisdictions as a critical political task, spurring them on to revive the local economy by creating a grand and spectacular event that will inspire the people, before they send the torch safely off, while keeping its spirit.

But do those people understand the spirit of the torch? How will they endeavor to keep its spirit? In grand buildings paid for by tax revenues? In monuments built for the occasion, disrupting people's lives and wasting money and manpower?

I would advise the Chinese people not to politicize the 2008 Games, or the passing of the Olympic torch -- something they are quick to accuse other people of doing, if they hold opinions different from Beijing's. Local authorities should also lighten up.

In fact, observing the situation in other countries the torch has previously passed through, it seems that those who live in a harmonious society think of the Olympics merely as games and a form of entertainment.

Take the 2000 Games in Sydney for example. That year earned a record for the number of times the torch was extinguished during its travels due to interference from ordinary people. For instance, some citizens showed their irritation when the passing of the torch briefly held up traffic. Several Australians suddenly grabbed the torch and acted as self-appointed torchbearers; one of them even cast it into the sea. There was another amazing incident in which a man put out the fire with a mini fire extinguisher, which astonished the police and the torchbearers and greatly amused the audience.

Despite those endless, annoying and funny interruptions, the 2000 Games in Sydney were in the end very harmonious and successful. The Australians are still very proud of those Games, especially of those funny interruptions. But when I shared those stories with my mainland friends they were as dumbfounded as if I were describing the acts of terrorists.

The areas in mainland China that the torch will pass through have the lowest per capita income, the most serious shortages of food and materials, and the worst pollution of anyplace the torch has traveled in the past 30 years. Therefore, rather than spending the peoples' hard-earned money on building grand structures, the Chinese authorities and people of wisdom should consider what they can do to deserve the visit of the torch and hold on to its true spirit.

The Chinese can talk about world peace and the peaceful rise of China, universal values and the spirit of sports in the light of the torch. But before that, they should also value the points stressed at the lighting ceremony in Greece, which are simplicity, nature, cleanliness and harmony.

Making do with whatever is available in light of local conditions is good enough. For instance, dancing on barren land isn't bad -- it may inspire people to plant green grass.

Let the torch light the way of simplicity, nature and harmony. It should not be political, and it should not attract suspicion or fear. We should not distort the passing of the torch so it is neither fish nor fowl, nor should we add too many Chinese characteristics to it.

We must remember that real monuments are in the minds of the people. If the people are not in the minds of the rulers, building countless altars and monuments will be no use.

from:http://www.upiasiaonline.com/Politics/2008/04/02/a_chinese_view_of_the_olympic_torch/5205/

(Yang Hengjun is a well-known Internet critic on current affairs, as well as the author of popular political spy novels. He has been a researcher on international relations and politics for the Chinese government. This article is translated and edited from the Chinese by UPI Asia Online; the original may be found at www.tecn.cn . ©Copyright Yang Hengjun.)


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