Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Olympic Games

Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Olympic Games

I have been having a good read of the age, and stuff about the Beijing bid. It is very interesting. One of the strongest arguments for giving Beijing the games was because it would mean there was greater focus on them and greater incentive for them to clean up their environmental and political act. And the last speaker for their bid actually played that card, with faintly ominous undertones of what might happen if Beijing didn't win.

One day at the start of the year all the grass was sprayed a foul green colour and I just found out that was for the IOC inspection. And they also shut down various factories to make the city seem less polluted. Just as well the inspection didn't come a month later, with all the dust. The dust was a nightmare. You would no sooner clean it up than it would appear again behind you.

In a lot of ways Beijing frightens me. Apparently there have been 1781 public executions in the last three months. All this stuff happens that is hugely inconvenient to people (like tearing down their place of residence or employment) and there is not much they can do unless the have connections in the party, in which case it wouldn't have happened in the first place.

None of it really affects me, and I suspect I know very little about it, it makes my head hurt trying to understand.

Another thing mentioned in the bid is how friendly Beijing people are. Which is and isn't true. To short term visitors 'hosts' will be excessively friendly. On the other hand people selling stuff will generally try to fleece you, unless you have been their customer for a long time (a month for dvd stores, four months for fruit and veg sellers) or have established your 'in-ness' (friend of a friend). People stare at you in the street with varying degrees of suspicion and dislike, a heavy weight to bear.

On Friday a taxi driver tried to fleece me by taking a circuitous route to my destination, making the taxi fare twice what it should be. I got really mad (I was having a bad day) and waved my hands and stuttered out a few phrases to the effect that I knew exactly what he had done and I’d be damned if I was going to pay the full amount. He seemed to find humour in the fact that I knew what was going on, and dropped the fare without argument. Perhaps encouraged by the fact that I had written down his cab number and the phone number for complaints.

Which is not to say that there are not just as many lovely people in Beijing as there are in Melbourne, but the (now rescinded?) government policy of overcharging (cheating) foreigners is a tenacious one, encouraged by three things. Everyone assumes that foreigners have plenty of money and so should pay more (maybe this is true?); the vendor gets extra money and is very unlikely to cop official reprimand; and a majority of foreigners aren't in Beijing long enough to realise how much extra they are paying. Paying 10 quai for a watermelon (roughly AU$2) isn’t that much, it’s just that everyone else is only paying 2 quai.

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