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Archive for April, 2008

Beijing Olympic Torch Comes to Everest

The BBC’s Jonah Fisher is one of a number of journalists in a heavily monitored party making their way to Everest Base Camp to see the second Olympic Torch begin its assent of the world’s highest mountain.

“The second Olympic torch is now at Base Camp ready for the climb.

“For whatever reason there is apparently still no chance of us being able to witness the start of its epic ascent.”

Preventing the Olympic torch reaching Tibet was one of the main objectives of protesters who targeted the torch’s relay around the world earlier this month. In this they have failed, but news that the Chinese will re-open dialogue with the Dalai suggests a success on the protesters part.

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The Chinese authorities released a report which seems to have indicated that they will be willing to resume communications with the Dalai Lama. Bob has waited to couple of days for more concrete news on this story, but there has been little.

One point that is worth picking out of the Chinese report that broke this news story is that one condition is that the Dalai must put a stop to “plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks” (via BBC). Is this a get out cause should there be any trouble in August in Beijing?

This may be seen as a victory by Tibetan protesters, however it comes at the same time that the Olympic flame is about to embark on it’s assent of Mount Everest; keeping the Olympic torch relay out of Tibet was one of the main objectives of the campaigners.

For more on this news Imagethief succinctly highlights the difference in reporting of this story between CNN and Xinhua (ok, it’s not hard to find differences, but it is a perfect little illustration of the great media debate surrounding the reporting of the Olympi protests) and Simon Elegant delivers a rather depressing ‘realistic’ summary of the obstacles that remain between the two sides and any meaningful progress.

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The Shanghaiist has come up trumps this weekend with a showcase of over a dozen songs to have been shortlisted for the honour of the official Beijing Olympics theme song.

The songs come from some of the creme de la creme of the Chinese pop world, including Andy Lau (Andy Liu), S.H.E. and numerous participants past and present from the ‘Super Girls‘ TV contest (Chinese versions of Pop Idol/American Idol).

The videos are interesting; they seem to feature the whole A to Z of Olympic sports, from archery to fencing to shooting to volley ball (ok, A to V). Interestingly Andy Lau and Han Hong & Yu Quan have opted to feature paralympic stories – as has been discussed here before disability is not a particularly open topic in China. A cynic may suggest this is for commercial reasons, but Bob would never be so unkind.

The Beijing Olympics Blog would like to put it’s considerable weight behind it’s favourite song; Fly together 一起飞 by Tan Jing (谭晶) and Yan Wei Wen (阎维文) (above). Bob is at risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy by choosing this tune – one of the more old-fashioned efforts featuring less fashionable artists – but in defence it is the most rousing of the songs, and features some nice shots of Beijing landmarks in the video. A close second is I’m a Star by Emil Chau for the shameless use of cute children. Olympic sponsors Coca-cola have been busy again, heavily branding the star-studded entry from Hong Kong artists S.H.E, Wil Pan andJacky Cheung.

Let’s hope the selectors choose wisely, as we will all be hearing the winning song an awful lot this summer!

The Shanghaiist also included the song Welcome to Beijing (above), released to mark the 100 day countdown to the start of the Biejing Olympics.

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Pressure is rising on the corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics. This week campaign group Dream for Darfur released their second school-style report on the activities of the 19 Olympic sponsors – 16 of whome have received a D or a ‘Fail’.

Beijing_Olympic_Sponsors

Campaigners have been demanding that sponsors of the “Genocide Olympics” exercise some corporate social responsibility, and their argument was particularly strengthened when Steven Spielberg stepped down from his association with the Games. This report highlights their responses, with a particular stress on the conflict in Darfur.

The Economist discusses this trend in corporate social responsibility; “As the row over corporate sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics shows, firms are increasingly expected to take a lead in promoting human rights”

Top of the class were Adidas and Kodak. The exec summary is :

• Kodak and Adidas each received a B+ for writing the UN and allowing those letters to be
made public, among other actions. We commend them.
• McDonald’s received a C+ for taking a private action, of which it showed evidence to our
campaign.
• General Electric and The Coca-Cola Company received a D. Neither took action in regard
to bringing security to Darfur; their grades reflect what appeared to be significant concern with
the issue and an effort (unsuccessful) to take an action. Rather than take action about Darfur,
Coca-Cola took aim at the Dream for Darfur campaign.
• Johnson & Johnson, Lenovo, Microsoft, Samsung and Visa received a D-. These
companies received a grade slightly higher than outright failure because they met with our
campaign. Notably, Samsung sent two executives to New York from South Korea for a
meeting with us.
• Nine of the remaining sponsors received Fs for a poor response or none at all. They
include: Anheuser-Busch, Atos Origin, BHP Billiton, Manulife, Panasonic, Staples,
Swatch, and Volkswagen. UPS, although it made a sizable contribution to humanitarian aid in
Darfur, did not advance our goals.

Read more here.

As the economist point out, this is a relatively new trend in demanding responsible behaviour of brands. In many cases these days large corporations are more fearful for their image than governments, and this strategy may prove more fruitful to campaigners than lobbying governments.

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The Road to Beijing is a phrase many will be familiar this year. But today Bob came across a rather appropriate use of this pun, by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) – www.paralympics.org.uk/RoadToBeijing

With nice use of Google maps, the BPA have charted the route from London to Beijing that their athletes, and they are encouraging supporters to complete a mile for sponsorship. (Another nice use of Google maps is Dan Beekman’s Bloggin Beijing interactive map.)

Road To Beijing Paralympics

“The idea is simple. Get behind our ParalympicsGB Team, complete a mile of your choice, collect sponsorship and get yourself on the map. The more miles completed, the closer we get to Beijing.”

It would be interesting to know the difference in funding between the BPA and the BOA; fund raising is clearly more of a priority from the BPA. This is not a plea for sponsorship, simply highlighting a nice idea. Of course there are plenty worse ways to spend your time and money…

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A great story from the Wall Street Journal, via Mary Nicole Nazzaro’s Beijing Olympics Blog about the new role models emerging in Chinese society. The focus is on the switch from the communist role models, of which Lei Feng is the most legendary, to sports stars and internet entrepreneurs, most notably Liu Xiang.

Olympic gold-medalist Liu XiangLei Feng Communist Model Citizen

“Communist heroes were usually idealized, perfect people, and, more often than not, dead.”

Chinese detective writer Qiu Xiaolong‘s book ‘Death of a Red Heroine‘ describes the life (and death) of a model worker in the China of 1990’s economic reforms; a good read for anyone interested. (The book is also a good ‘beginner’s guide to 20th Century Chinese history, with a story.)

“Traditionally in China heroes must be winners first and foremost. That has been the essence of the iconic success of professional basketball player Yao Ming. The 27-year-old National Basketball Association player is treated as a national treasure. Though he wasn’t the first Chinese player to join the NBA, he was the first to dominate in it — showing that Chinese are among the world’s best.”

Bob previously wrote similar when Yao Ming suffered an injury that threatened his Olympic dream.

The main star of the article, and one of the biggest hopes for the Olympics is Liu Xiang. Earlier this year the Chinese public voted their top Olympic dream, to see Liu retain his 110m hurdles gold and there has been great speculation over the pressure Liu is under.

“Mr. Liu, the gold-medal-winning hurdler, is seen as both a hero for the nation who wins gold, and a populist hero who embodies the greater individuality prized by younger Chinese. One important factor: The sport at which he excels wasn’t chosen by the state. Originally a high-jumper, Mr. Liu made an unusual switch into hurdling at age 15, after his original sports school had given up on him.

“He also is admired for the way he conducts himself off the field. Mr. Liu is known as a spunky, everyday kid who exudes a kind of personality that also isn’t handed down by the state. On a victory lap through Hong Kong after his 2004 win, he sang for adoring fans.”

Read and make up your own minds.

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There are just one hundred (and ten) days left before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. Typically highly organised and publicised the 100 day count down for the Beijing Olympics has been announced ten days early. To mark this ‘occassion’ a song has been recorded and released; it includes the voices  of 100 artists and is entitled ‘Welcome to Beijing’.

BOCOG have also announced that 364 cheerleaders have been selected to ‘wecome to Beijing’ athletes and spectators at 10 venues around city.

Beijing Olympic Cheerleaders

One of these 10 venues will be the Birds Nest – the national stadium – which has been official unveiled. Tim Johnson was one of the journalists allowed in to see, and describes it in some detail.

Photoes from Inside the Bird\'s Nest (Beijing National Stadium)

This is the final venue to be completed, a month after the organisers of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Village opened that. According to the China Economic Review “Anyone who has visited say it is a delight and environmentally friendly design although, sadly, the loos are Asian rather than Western style”. Fascinating. Well this week (at least since Bob’s last post ‘Olympic Torch Protests – Who Says What?‘) Chen Zhili was named as the ‘Mayor of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Village’. Ms Chen is clearly a busy woman, also  Vice-Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and BOCOG Vice-President, so it is unlikely she will have time to fix the toilet situation.

Olympic Village
Speaking of Olympic mayors, it is just 11 days until the Mayor of the next city to host the summer Olympics and Paralympics will be elected. Already labelled the ‘Genocide Olympics’ (by many Chinese bloggers at least) London will host the Games in 2012, but who will be the Mayor between now and then, Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson?

From ‘Wecome to Beijing’ to Boris Johnson, via cheerleaders (apologies, but the BOCOG has been banging on about the cheerleaders so many times BOB had to given them at least one mention) seemlessly linked. Finally, apologies for the absence of posts in the last week, the Beijing Olympic Blog is most definitely back in action now.

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