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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Olympic Games Still a Chinese Puzzle

June 15, 2008

TV networks not in cheering mood
By CLIFFORD COONAN
Variety (USA)
June 13, 2008

BEIJING -- With the Aug. 8 opening ceremony looming, the city is
looking fabulous as it prepares for the summer Olympics. And China
has begun extensive training for the country's 800,000 students
expected to attend, teaching them how to cheer for their own country,
or even visiting competitors to make them feel welcome. (It's a
four-step process, climaxing with a fist pumping in the air and a cry
of "Let's go!")

However, there is considerably less cheering from TV networks and
foreign visitors. Both groups are saying the country's too-tough
security policies are forcing a rethink of their participation.

Some broadcasters say they are scaling back coverage because their
plans are months behind schedule. Many allege their TV broadcasting
equipment is being held up in Chinese ports, while others complain
the paperwork is extensive and slow. These headaches are in addition
to the earlier limits that the government imposed on live coverage
from Tiananmen Square.

Intl. Olympic Committee officials met recently with nine
broadcasters, including NBC, which have paid for rights to air the
Games. Sun Weijia, head of media operations for the Beijing
organizing committee (BOCOG), asked them to put their complaints into
writing, prompting more protests about too much paperwork, according
to the Associated Press, which also has a broadcasting interest in
the Olympics with APTN.

A spokesman for the BBC, which is using a production staff of 437 to
telecast the Games to the U.K., says, "There are frustrations with
the processes, but regardless of these, we're confident that it won't
lead us to scaling back our coverage."

China is freer now than it has ever been. It has the largest number
of Internet users in the world, and its citizens enjoy more liberty
than they ever did under the emperors or under the Communist Party
before or during the Cultural Revolution. They have money in their
pockets and they can express their views relatively openly on the streets.

That said, the government is deadly serious when it comes to
containing public displays of dissent at the Olympics.

The country expects half a million foreign visitors -- and there will
be about as many security officials.

Beijing frets that activists from abroad who disrupted the journey of
the Olympic torch relay, will stage protests inside China over Tibet,
Darfur, human rights and other issues before and during the Games.

The government also is worried about terrorist attacks or plots to
kidnap athletes or visitors and hold them for ransom, though
officials recently bragged it had rounded up one criminal ring with that goal.

While Beijing is on the defensive against attacks, it is also taking
extensive steps to make everyone feel welcome -- and to show national
enthusiasm at the Games.

The four-part Olympic cheer will be taught at schools, promoted on
TV, and instructions will be available as part of a poster campaign.
It officially will be used to fire up the national team, but can be
used to inspire other countries.

Step 1: Clap twice while chanting "Olympics."
Step 2: Give the thumbs up with your arms extended upward, while
chanting "Let's go!"
Step 3: Clap twice chanting "China."
Step 4: Punch the air with your fists, your arms extended, shouting "Let's go!"

The cheer is a joint invention of the Communist Party's Office of
Spiritual Civilization Development & Guidance, the Ministry of
Education and the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee. It was
launched in the Media Center of national state broadcaster, China
Central Television.

"We want to engage in activities to better promote civilized gestures
in the stadiums, to cheer on the Olympics and to cheer on China. This
gesture demonstrates to the world the charisma of the Chinese people
and our enthusiasm," says Guo Zhenxi, head of CCTV's Center for
Advertising and Economic Information.

The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee has assigned 30 cheering
squads to show spectators how it is done at Games stadiums, the
Xinhua news agency reports.

But it isn't just all about the home team. The government has
appointed hundreds of schoolchildren to cheer for various countries
during the Games, with individual schools ordered to adopt a specific nation.

Unsurprisingly, the schools that were given Japan, China's
long-standing regional rival, have an opt-out clause in which they
get to cheer for China if there is a head-to-head between athletes
from both countries.

Li Ning, head of the Beijing Etiquette Institute, told the Beijing
News that the cheer is in line with what she described as general
international principles for cheering.

"It creates a great atmosphere in the stadium for the athletes and
heightens the interaction between the audiences," says Beijing
Olympic Organizing Committee publicity chief Wang Hui.

However, the reaction online has been mixed. "I've just learned the
cheer," Da Menya says. "But I feel a little bit foolish." Shen Jiang
Qike says the idea is good but wondered whether it was necessary for
spectators to respond in such a uniform way.

"The enthusiasm is from our heart, which I think people from every
country could feel, no matter what the expression is. Using
diplomatic etiquette to express our enthusiasm will only make people
uncomfortable," Shen writes.

Another netizen, who gave his name as Xiao Shang says, "I am always
amazed at the government's ability to take the fun out of anything."

Certainly the 30,000 media members expected to descend on Beijing are
not expecting any fun. Rights groups have pointed out that a
clampdown on media freedoms flies in the face of promises to let
reporters do their jobs as they have in previous Olympic Games.

Some sponsors have privately complained that they are being charged
exorbitant fees for security services, and are being told they would
not be allowed to bring in their own private security firms.
Residents need to show their passports to get in to their own homes
if they live in compounds where diplomats or other notables live,
while Chinese people practically have to have their birth
certificates with them to get in to any area where foreigners congregate.

Some Western visitors trying to get visas have had to show letters of
invitation plus copies of their hosts' passports or hotel booking
forms simply to get a tourist visa. The crackdown has particularly
impacted students, who the Chinese fear are likely to stage illegal
impromptu demonstrations on the streets.
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