Thursday, April 10, 2008

Olympic Apples and Oranges

The Olympic torch was showcased for its one and only visit to North America on Wednesday afternoon. How did the trip to San Francisco fare? Depends on who you ask. According to Xinhua, China's official state news, it was a joyous event. The Associated Press paints a much murkier picture, one riddled with anxiety and confusion.

Here's a comparison on how both agencies describe the event as well as my comments:
(Xinhua) Chinese Olympic swimming champion Lin Li, who was the first runner of the San Francisco relay, began her run by holding the torch high and waving to a cheering crowd.
(AP) The first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a waterfront warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight.
I watched most of the torch relay on CNN. At the onset (after a half hour delay and various festivities) Lin Li did indeed receive the torch and hold it high to much fanfare. However, the people in the crowd at the opening ceremony were selected by the Chinese Olympic Committee. It was not as if a random assembly of individuals gathered around to cheer.

The AP report is correct. After Li took the torch she and her security entourage ran around the backside of AT&T Park -- far away from what was earlier established as the torch route. They eventually entered a warehouse and did not emerge for quite some time.

(Xinhua) Thousands of people gathered along the route of the relay under a sunny sky to show their support for the torch run in the U.S. city.
(AP) Hundreds of pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators blew whistles and waved flags as they faced off near the site of the relay's opening ceremony. Police struggled to keep the groups apart.
The demonstrators did not become as aggressive as those involved in the London and Paris protests. But there was a very large contigent of both sides and neither seemed interested in holding hands with the other. Personally I did not see police struggle to separate the groups. There was an enormous police presence, which did muc to deter violence before it could erupt.
(Xinhua) Supporters of China's role as host of the Games were upholding Chinese national flags and displaying the Beijing Olympic mascot Fuwa on the city's waterfront.
(AP) [The] parade was rerouted and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters.
Both statements are correct. The Associated Press, however, is telling the entire story rather than promoting a one-sided narrative.
(Xinhua) The closing ceremony for the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco was relocated on Wednesday while the relay was concluded in the U.S. western coastal city.
(AP) After its parade was rerouted and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters, the planned closing ceremony at the waterfront was canceled and moved to San Francisco International Airport. The flame was put directly on a plane and was not displayed.
Xinhua doesn't flatout lie. Instead it resorts to deceptive tactics to prevent any negativity to reflect upon China and its 2008 Olympic efforts. The Summer Games are less than four months away. Pressure from human rights will continue to mount. Chinese subversion seems inevitable. As the world waits 8-8-08 will undoubtedly be the sports story of the year -- whatever that story will say remains to be seen.

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