The Achievement of China

Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The 2008 Olympics have been magnificently organized and supported by China. That much is obvious. The Bird’s Nest is not only spectacular in appearance, but functional and dramatic as an arena. The welcome for foreign visitors was manifest. Media coverage discussed the walls constructed to hide poor districts from foreign eyes. In 1968, the first Mayor Daley built walls to hide Chicago’s poor districts from the eyes of visitors to the Democratic Convention. My mother always closed the door so visitors wouldn’t see an unmade bed. The impulse is human.

China was determined to put its best face forward. In a sense, these Olympics were like China accepting an invitation it had long ignored, to open its arms to the world community. Of course there are vast areas of disagreement, issues of human rights, political disputes, questions like Tibet, the whole painful list. But there is also change and reform. Can anyone question that China has not advanced and moderated since the days of Mao? The Olympics were China’s calling card, its coming-out party. China was saying, we are here, we are proud of our progress, we welcome you.

I believe these Olympics will be seen as a turning point even more important than Nixon’s courageous decision to visit China. Some of the walls we saw China hiding behind were built by the West. My mental images, my limited views, are possibly typical of many Westerners, even better informed than some.

… This is the bottom line: Olympics were a triumph for China. I’m not talking about gold medals, and I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about appreciation for a glorious world event. About the deeper, richer, more complex vision we have of the nation. They did a hell of a job.


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