To say Beijing is eager to welcome foreign guests to the Olympics may be the understatement of the century. The new airport terminal features a welcome robot, there are “welcome booths” on just about every downtown street, the names of the Olympic mascots spell “Welcome to Beijing” in Chinese. If you’re not careful, you may be walking down a normal street only to find yourself surrounded by eager volunteers clad in blue shirts who point out everything you ever wanted to know about Beijing and plenty more you didn’t. In the Olympic Village, where the athletes live, friends say that the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the volunteers borders on harassment.
The enthusiasm is understandable. Everyone keeps talking about the “100-year dream,” and in a sense, Beijing has been waiting to host this—its international coming-out—since 1842 or so. That’s the year China lost the Opium War and started a 160-year-long search for respect. Much to the country’s chagrin, it still isn’t getting any.
The Western media have arrived en masse to China’s ball: lots of senior journalists, in sloppy dress, interested either in their own athletes or in writing their own big “China piece.” (Foreign guests are here, too, but fewer than Beijing had hoped for, thanks in part to self-defeating visa policies.) Not surprisingly, the stories written about China by foreign journalists are rarely on topics China might have hoped for.
Update: An article in Harper’s gives another perspective, that NBC coverage of China is in fact too friendly especially with the use of a hired commentator who works with Henry Kissinger:
When Lauer asked Ramo if the Games would change China, he replied, “I think China is changed irrevocably after these 17 days. It is a full aware part of the international community and they know that their behavior in that community is going to have to be different than in the past.”
So who is Ramo? According to a recent piece in the Albuquerque Journal, he “works as a managing director and partner at the Beijing office of Kissinger Associates.” Which explains a lot.
Shouldn’t NBC identify Ramo as an employee of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is one of the Americans closest to the Chinese leadership and whose business involves opening doors for Western companies seeking to do business in China?