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Archive for February, 2008

Yao, down but possibly not yet out

Yao Ming has suffered a stress fracture in his left foot, announced this Tuesday before his team’s match in the NBA. He will be out for the rest

of the NBA season and it is not clear whether he will be fit in time to take part in the Olympic basketball competition.

For an interesting personal take on the significance of this set back take a look at Mary Nicole Nazzaro’s post on her Beijing Olympic Blog. Mary describes Yao as “China’s biggest international sports star…(I make the distinction “international” because hurdler Liu Xiang is arguably the most visible Olympic star inside China; but Yao is certainly the most recognized throughout the world)”. Would anyone disagree?

This will certainly be a huge blow to the the millions of Yao’s fans in his home nation. But let us not forget Yao too, who describes the idea of missing the Beijing Games as “ the biggest loss in my career to right now”.

Interestingly Nazzaro describes Yao as “an exemplary human being on and off the court”, which is slightly contrary to some articles that have appeared in the Chinese media labelling him as a ‘bad boy’. However Nazzaro’s comments paint an image of the clean-living, modest and supremely successful sport stars that so appeal to the Chinese public – hence Roger Federer’s huge following.

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The BBC’s sports Editor Mihir Bose has interviewed the IOC’s legal advisor (and former Director General) Francois Carrard, with the resulting article published today. The topic; human rights. Carrard defends the IOC’s decision to award the 2008 Games to China:

“I’m convinced that when we look at this (9hu9man9 9rights in China) with the perspective of history we will see that the Olympic Games will have been an opportunity for considerable progress.”

The IOC must be tired of defending this decision since it was taken in 2001, but the topic has risen to the surface (not that it’s ever sunk far below the surface) since Steven Spielberg’s decision to disassociate himself from the Beijing Games for moral reasons.

Mr Carrard’s conclusion:

“I respect what Mr Spielberg says but, respectfully, I totally disagree with him.”

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 “We are Olympic hosts and should give visitors from home and abroad a good impression”

A quote from a Beijing resident as part of a China Daily article reporting the launch of “Seat-giving day”. From now on the 22nd of each month passengers on public transport will be urged to offer their seats to those in greater need of it – elderly/pregnant/disabled (etc) fellow passengers.

This is one of the initiatives used by the city authorities in the months and years preceding the Games to encourage residents to be more considerate to the sensitivities of foreign visitors during the Olympics. Here at the BOB we will try and keep a record of these initiatives as the list grows. To date we have:

This list will be added to, so any suggestions will be welcomed…

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Spielberg before resigning as an artistic avdisor to the Beijing Olympic ceremonies

Unless you’ve spent the whole of the Year of the Rat thus far on a desert island, you will already know that Steven Spielberg has stepped down from his position as artistic advisor for the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. (His involvement was noted here in a previous note.)

The reason

Darfur. More specifically, the fact that the Chinese government “should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering” of the Sudanese people at the hands of it’s own government. The Chinese government have come under particularly strong criticism for failing to prevent the atrocities in Darfur because of their particularly strong economic, military and diplomatic ties with the Sudanese authorities.

What this means…

…For the opening and closing ceremonies; probably very little. By his own admission Spielberg has not even signed the contract given to him by the BOGOC almost a year ago, and according to Richard Spencer of the The Telegraph he has only been to Beijing once since his appointment. This hardly demonstrates commitment to the role. The responses of the authorities we will get to shortly, but it is worth noting that they all emphasise that preparations for the ceremonies are still running smoothly. It seems that Zhang Yimou, Spielberg’s friend and fellow superstar-director, will be capable to orchestrating the events.

…For the Olympic organisers; a bigger headache. Although anticipation has been rife for protests surrounding the Olympics, from the many parties with objections to the CCP’s policies, this is the most high profile defection from someone involved in the Games. Will this set a precedent for others? It has certainly put extra wind in the sales of groups like Team Darfur – a group of athletes who like Spielberg want China to use it’s influence to end the crisis in Sudan.

The official response

The official response has expressed regret at Mr Spielberg’s decision, promised that “excellent” ceremonies will be presented to the world despite this decision, and reminded observers that “Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic Spirit that separates sports from politics”. Pretty standard, and well put.

A slightly more contentious aspect of the statements is that “The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue”. For those who don’t know, China’s general rule in terms of foreign policy since the 1980’s has been one of non-intervention; not to interfere with another country’s internal affairs. This is in opposition to the Western ‘moral guardian’ role that has been fronted by the United States for over 50 years, and has lead to many interventions in a range of circumstances around the world. It seems that China is now having to weigh-up its new role as an emerging superpower.

There has also been speculation (and more speculation)over the fact that it took the authoroties two days to respond to the statement from Spielberg.

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Welcome to Beijing New Year celebrations

Chinese New Year celebrations peaked this weekend, and what better way to mark them than with some pictures of the colour-rich celebrations. In London people paraded through Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and China Town in the largest celebrations outside Asia.

China Town Chun Jie lanterns

With just 6 months to go to the Olympics (178 days as this is written) it’s no surprise that the FuWa were prevelent in the decorations.

The Olympics were understandably the dominant theme for celebrations

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The British Channel 4 News broadcast this story this evening: the British Olympic Association (BOA) has decided to back track on a decision to include a controversial clause in contract for team members.

“A clause in section four of the proposed agreement states that selected athletes “..are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.” ”

Apparently this was meant to be derived from the section in the IOC Charter which states that “no kind of demonstration or political, racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites,venues or other areas”.

Not exactly the same. As acknowledged by Simon Clegg, Chief Exec of the BOA:

“I accept the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA team members’ agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter. This is not our intention, nor is it our desire to restrict athletes’ freedom of speech, and the final agreement will reflect this.”

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Will the Olympics bring gold?Olympic Shares

The troubled stock markets have been dominating headlines in the UK at the beginning of this Olympic year. So it seems pertinent to pick up on an article on the Financial Times’ own Beijing Olympics page discussing the impact that the Games will have on the Chinese stock market.

The FT finds experts with differing opinions about whether the Olympics will boost the Chinese stock market: HSBC research showed that “since the 1964 Tokyo games host country stock markets on average rose 21 per cent in the year after the event, with particularly strong performances in the first seven months”, while “Galaxy Securities in Beijing, however, said its analysis did not find any Olympic effect on host country shares in the five years before and after games held since 1984”.

However historical research should presumably be treated with a pinch of salt this time around, as the highly publicised Chinese economy is surely an exceptional case.

“One argument in favour of hosting the Olympics is the benefit to the economy from tourists and infrastructure investment.” The Chinese government is spending over £21 billion ($40 billion) on the Games according to the BBC, including almost £1 billion on the Olympic venues. Meanwhile the Olympics stimulated a 9% growth in advertising spend in 2007 in China.

However, the Chinese economy is still growing at 11.5% according to the FT, and is hardly in any need of extra stimulae. With this in mind the words of Garry Evans, chief Asian equity strategist for HSBC, sum up the most important factor on the Chinese economy (if not its society); a smooth Olympics:

“An impressive, smoothly run Olympics tends to boost the confidence of the host nation’s citizens and the respect of the rest of the world.”

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