While I was working at an international school in Beijing, the Western Academy of Beijing – affectionately know as WAB – I had the unforgettable experience of being involved in the Olympic Games as they were being held in Beijing while we were there.
This is the song that was recorded by about 100 famous singers, including Jackie Chan rather surprisingly.
Unforgettable is the right word for this, not happy or pleased. Apart from the various changes that were made by the Chinese government (closing down all polluting activities for the duration of the games themselves, renewing all the taxis and buses with super clean modern ones, establishing an anti-pollution system for cars so that those with odd number number plates could drive on alternate days, and those with even number plates on the other days – which led those who could afford it to buy two cars and making sure they had odd and even number plates – and no end of such ideas), we were also involved in a number of ways.
WAB was chosen to be the base for the Australian team for all the non-training activities – physiotherapy, offices, equipment stores and similar, so we enjoyed the company of all the Aussie athletes and trainers for the Games themselves, which was a pleasing experience by and large. But we were also used by loads of extremely commercial companies as a training base in the months leading up to the Games. So TV camera men were being trained for months by English guys who worked full-time on the Olympics for a British TV company. These got horribly in our way, as we had to also set up lights and sound equipment for the multitude of school activities every day, and these idiots got under our feet a lot!
I was also briefly employed by the local cops to (of all things) try to teach them English. This turned out to be a publicity stunt on the part of the City of Beijing, as what I had to do was stand in front of a class of Tourist Police and pretend to teach them English while being filmed by a full team of cameramen and sound guys – all good fun and harmless stuff. In fact all the Tourist Cops in Beijing speak perfectly good English. In passing, it was a joy to live in a country where (unless they needed guns and similar) the cops didn’t wander around laden down with guns, tasers and bullet proof vests, after having lived in too many countries where they did that… and also it was great to live in a place where the cops wore smart uniforms rather than black combat suites.
As the time for the Games approached, more and more of the companies who live off the games appeared, and we became aware that in fact the Olympics were all about earning large sums of money for no end of companies and the athletes were the produce, the coca-cola bottles as it were.
This rather depressed me, and those of us who were witnessing this hyper-commercialising of the athletes endeavours. Not only did we see the direct commercialising of the athletes work, but we had to listen to the lies of the various broadcasters who were sent to China to report on the Olympics, but also were apparently also ordered to say the strangest and untrue things about China. The Chinese government is absolutely not a nice one, but then plenty of others around the world are even worse, and the total lies we heard everyday on the BBC and other apparently honest broadcasters was depressing, to say the least! They went out of their way to find nasty things to say about the country, its people and its government, and as one who lived there and knew the realities of Chinese life, I found the various lies hard to take.
So, to sort of sum the whole experience up, I hated the reality of the Olympics, the huge sums of money that apparently everyone earned from it all, the pomp and ceremony of the whole idiotic and expensive mess, the chaos it caused in everyone’s lives and the hypocrisy of it all…