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The Olympics of spin

Oly1 A battlefield whiff is already in the air before the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games.

It’s not about sports either. It’s about publicity and spin and image and all those other crass things that seem to cut to the core of the modern Olympics.

There’s a big dose of fear in there, too, to match China’s rightly deserved confidence that the Games (the sporting part, that is) will go well. China is getting nervous about what it sees as “intensifying negative publicity.” So it has done what comes natural: tighten the muzzle on the domestic press.

The South China Morning Post reports this morning that officials from the Central Publicity Department (the former propaganda bureau) ordered Chinese journalists last week to begin steering clear of any Olympics stories that would cast the nation in a bad light.

The written circular, which the paper said was delivered last week, warned reporters that they should take particular care with four sensitive topics: air quality, food safety, the Olympics torch relay and the Paralympics.

“It also requires state media to put a spin on those topics in order to ‘offset the bad publicity’ created by those previous reports,” the newspaper quoted an editor informed of the new policy as saying.

The newspaper (behind a pay wall) noted that the Olympic organizers have been taking foreign journalists on tours of venues and allowed more interviews, part of what it called a charm offensive.

"The [publicity department] circular mentioned these organised tours as part of a campaign to reverse the situation in what they apparently view as a propaganda war," said another Beijing-based newspaper editor who had access to the document.

"But the essential point it presents is that domestic press should come up with more `positive' Olympics stories to influence their foreign counterparts' agenda."

Mainland media regulators have paid increasing attention to the fact that most foreign media pick up story ideas from the domestic press and are seeing this process as a potential threat to their efforts to project an impeccable image for the Games, largely considered a coming-out party.

Hmm. Interesting. So the foreign press is lumped together as having an agenda somehow in opposition to China’s national interests.

So now on to scan the front page of the China Daily, where unremittingly positive stories abound. One headline notes that China will finally permit foreigners with HIV/AIDS to enter the country (they’ve been banned in the past as a threat to Chinese). Another headline notes that an anti-doping agency has been set up for the Games.

Don’t expect to be seeing negative stories about Beijing smog here.

I, for one, love Olympics events that are so minor that one can be sure the athletes are only taking part for love of the sport. They’ll be getting neither rich nor famous. And there’s very little nationalism. Let’s hear it for the biathlon! And water polo! And team handball!

What’s the sensitivity with the Paralympics about anyway? Maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

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Comments

Wangchuk

Chinese spin doctors & Western companies sponsoring the 2008 Olympics claim most if not all Chinese support the Beijing Olympics. But the reality is that many Chinese have protested or attempted to protest the Olympics for a variety of reasons, including human rights violations, economic waste, pollution & corruption.

A Chinese official admitted that at least 70 million yuan will be spent for each gold medal that China will obtain. In a country where the average rural resident makes less than $2/day, I doubt that all those gold medals will mean anything to them. A private researcher estimated the true number is around 700 million yuan per gold medal. So much waste for so little gain.

diane

Your picture on the top of this page says it all. it demonstrates how The people, in the "PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA" are treated. This man like millions of others built that venue called the birds nest, he made little to no money and will never see one game or event as the city will make sure he is not seen in Beijing during the games. how sad and shame on the government of China.

Mao

That's the problem, the Communist Party of China, has NEVER listen or cared to the people of China!

Get rid of the CCP, remove the capitalist corporations, which are only profit seeking, supporting the rich owners of China's Communist Party...

Then the Chinese can heal their country, their culture and help insure world peace...

Instead of military buildup, oil depletion and fighting over resources, cheap labor, disharmony and all the crap happening today, from profit seekers in China...

Ding

Another example of a weak China pandering and kowtowing to foreigners. Lame excuses like 'most other countries do' is pretty pathetic. If that is the justification, why not do what most other countries do in other areas.... like in permitting the Catholic church to operate?

The previous regulation banning entry of people with infectious diseases made sense in a country where the public health system is weak, screening / testing of infected persons spotty, most people cannot afford expensive HIV treatments nor can they be relied on to not pass it onto someone else after they are infected.

At the same time, China is a destination for 'tourists' who come for nothing more than cheap sex. It is not as if China is as bad as Thailand or Vietnam, but clearly, enough of these people come that this is a significant risk to Chinese. How is China going to monitor the behavior of these disease vectors once they arrive?

When is the People's Government going to stand up and protect the people?

Reverse this decision!

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Tom

"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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