The Beijing Olympic Games, viewed by both the Chinese government and the Chinese people as a tremendous opportunity to showcase the economic development and modernization of the world’s most populous country, have drawn to a close.
Sports fans everywhere were wowed by the athletic performances in China’s capital. They saw Mr. Michael Phelps of the United States win a record eight gold medals in swimming events and the aptly named Jamaican sprinter Mr. Usain Bolt run 100 meters faster than any human in history, clocking a world record of 9.69 seconds. He also set a world record of 19.30 seconds in the 200-meter event.
Although Japan didn’t win many gold medals, Japanese athletes turned in some fine performances. Mr. Kosuke Kitajima won two golds, swimming the men’s 100-meter breaststroke in a world record time of 58.91 seconds and setting an Olympic record of 2 minutes 7.64 seconds in the 200-meter breaststroke. Japan also defeated the U.S. to win a gold medal in softball.
No doubt, the games, which carried a record price tag of $43 billion, filled the hearts of the Chinese people with pride. The opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular displays of pageantry. And Chinese athletes went on to win the largest number of gold medals at 51, surpassing the U.S. by 15.
But the games also contained unfortunate elements that underlined just how strong the Chinese Communist Party’s control remains. In the opening ceremony, a 7-year-old singer was replaced onstage by a “more attractive” girl, who lip-synced the national anthem while the 7-year-old sang. Some of the broadcast images of the opening fireworks display were actually computer-generated. Most of the “ethnic minority” children turned out to be Han Chinese.
The Chinese government threatened domestic mass media that failed to follow its guidelines with large fines. People considered as an eyesore, including rural migrant workers, were removed from the capital. Fatal separatist attacks against the police took place in the Xinjiang Uighur region on Aug. 4, 10 and 12. The Dalai Lama accused Chinese troops of shooting protesters in eastern Tibet last week.
All these incidents show that China still has far to go when it comes to human rights, openness and social harmony.