Posted by Bradley Moseley-Williams on July 28th, 2008
As we draw closer to the start of the Beijing Olympics savvy media dwellers will start to tally the number of Beijing-Olympics-focused articles, features, editorials, op-ed pieces, essays, rants, opinions, diatribes, thoughts and so forth spreading through all forms of media.
Topics will be all over the map, of course, but look for some tried-and-true pieces that are already part of the public conversation.
Tibet will appear here and there, with all manner of references to the mechanisms put in place by the Chinese government to stifle any possible suggestion of even a whisper of discord. These stories will dovetail with references to “protest pens” and increased border security measures to make sure no one smuggles a “Free Tibet” lapel pin into China. If (and this is a big if) an athlete stands to accept a medal and–gasp–whips out a protest lapel pin the world media will take loud notice.
Look for a few heartwarming notes about athletes away from home, forging new friendships in the Olympic Village, and adjusting to training conditions in Beijing. Blogs home to hometown newspapers are a nice touch, but a cozy blogpost home to the neighbourhood might be difficult to see and hear amid the media clutter of the Olympics.
The pollution in Beijing will be given a great deal of coverage. I visited Beijing in late 1999 and while there was, indeed, a 30 storey building across the broad avenue from my hotel I couldn’t see it 5 mornings out of 7. Back in those dark days daylight could not penetrate the morning smog (cheerfully called “fog” by private and state tour guides) and the city planners devised an ingenious solution for lighting the murky streets.
Streetlights about 4 feet tall interspersed with their regular counterparts serve to illuminate the day, like taller versions of garden or pool lighting found here at home, because light does not sink to street level. Pedestrians would be hopelessly lost without these lamp posts in miniature and I used them as dim beacons leading me back to my hotel. The air quality truly is terrible.
The old adage taught to children, “Stop, look and listen before you cross the street” is a handy guide for any visitor to Beijing where crossing even the quietest backstreet is an exercise in both courage and luck. Passenger cars are being reduced from the local trafficsape (a word I hope I just coined) using a “day on/day off” plan while old beaters that are deemed to be embarrassingly high on the pollution inducing scale are made to disappear. Reducing vehicular traffic is a clever move–look for media features about how citizens are coping without their cars–and will have the pleasant side effect of making crosswalks safer. (Urgent Footnote: When in Beijing always cross the street in a crowd. There is safety in pedestrian numbers.)