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No Tanks but Fireworks on Tiananmen Square
04 Sep 2007 08:43

There were no tanks on Tiananmen Square – only fireworks to celebrate one year to the Olympics in Beijing! The awesome Forbidden City, the home of Chinese Emperors, for centuries including the Ming and Qing Dynasties is one of the World Heritage sites that has to be seen as is the Great Wall.

By Steve Jaspan

But for Olympic sporting enthusiasts it is hardly a forbidden city but a very welcoming one as the Chinese are working like dervishes to ensure the City serves up a mouthwatering Olympic Games. The stadiums are all but ready. The “Birds Nest” Olympic Stadium will be one of the last to be finished by next May. The hockey stadium is complete and the Test Event went off very smoothly.

The arrangements for the Hockey Competition have been implemented excellently. The Chinese volunteers, out in their thousands, are learning English fast and are almost desperate to please. Friendly, polite and helpful they will be a feature of next year’s Games. Make no errors; Beijing in August is steamy and hot. Like Athens, most of the outdoor sports will be taking a midday siesta because, for example by 11:00 it is already sweltering.

Hydration, ice vests, clever substitutions, varying the tempo of the game. All these and more will be factored into the team management and coaching. It’s going to be a case of long days and short nights also for the technical officials and media. Of course, the media has homed in on pollution citing that 16 of the World’s 20 most polluted cities are in China, that they are the second worst offenders when it comes to the emission of harmful greenhouse gases, etc.

Well, the city of Beijing seems determined to clean up its act, relocating many industries or shutting them down for the August Olympics. They have planted thousands and thousands of trees and are beautifying Beijing rapidly. Some of the modern architecture is dazzling. But for a formerly bicycle dominated city the transition (almost mirroring the move from Communism towards Capitalism) to a vehicle dominated city clearly has its growing pains.

Whether the political system is now Communism with a generous dash of capitalism or socialism with dollops of capitalism or even now Capitalism with elements of Communism – it’s hard for an outsider to tell! One thing’s for sure! The new cars, shopping malls, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc leave you with the impression that this is a far cry from Chairman Mao’s original recipe. (His portrait hangs above the entrance to the Forbidden City sternly overlooking Tiananmen Square).

Talking of mouth-watering. Conventional wisdom about Chinese cuisine being boring is not true. Whether north or south the cuisine of the vast and populous land, will delight the adventurous gourmand. The Chinese Hockey Association and BOCOG were great hosts and believe me; the Chinese hockey teams are going to be very competitive in a year’s time. Don’t be surprised if they pick up 2 medals!

With shocks galore in Pan America (Canadian men beating Argentina), Europe (Belgium men beating Germany), the Olympic Qualifiers follow and it will be tense times as the saga unfolds in Victoria (Canada), Baku (Azerbaijan), Kazan (Russia), Auckland (New Zealand),  Kakamigahara (Japan), and Santiago (Chile).

It is almost like “non life-threatening” Russian roulette and that is great for hockey! The de Coubertin legacy of the Olympics is of course the 5 continents represented by the 5 Olympic Rings all competing in the right spirit! (Unfettered by the use of harmful substances).

Faster, higher, stronger – every young sports person wants to share the dream of competing (a theme that has been embraced in Beijing). The FIH has tried very hard to make this dream accessible to as many people as possible.

Let’s hope it is reciprocated by all the NOCs around the World giving their athletes maximum support, to live the dream. In China, sports stars are national heroes and role models and that should be the case universally.

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