Monday, August 11, 2008

The chai Olympics (re-post from Froogville)

I originally posted this over on Froogville a week ago, but I'm afraid it might have got rather lost amid the welter of my other recent Olympics-related blogging, and I like it so much, I think it's worth cross-posting on here.

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but, alas, I no longer have a functional version of Photoshop on either of my computers (hence the dearth of photographs on my blogs of late).

This character - chai - means 'demolish', and it is daubed on the walls of buildings shortly before the bulldozers arrive. Sometimes, you wonder if this isn't about the only warning the soon-to-be-displaced residents get. Sometimes, indeed, the demolition seems to follow so swiftly that I speculate there may be dozens of opportunistic wrecking crews roaming the city, authorised to raze any chai'd building they find and claim a bounty for their good work. (I'm kidding about that, of course. I don't think even the Chinese would try taking market economics to that extreme. Would they???)

The wholesale destruction of great swathes of Beijing - often in a rather chaotic and unplanned way - has been one of the sorriest consequences of awarding the Olympics to China. Many of the most charming and characterful old neighbourhoods have been ruthlessly flattened to facilitate the city's misconceived plans for modernisation. The dreaded chai symbol has swept through the hutongs like a plague.

We've heard a number of unflattering slogans for these Games now, of course: the Genocide Olympics (thank you, Mia - you take the prize for hysterical overstatement), the "1936 All Over Again" Olympics (makes a similar point, but more broadly and more humorously), the "No Fun" Olympics, the Fenqing Olympics (fenqing are the objectionable, hysterical young nationalists who are the Chinese government's unfortunate 'blowback' from years of unremitting propaganda), and (another favourite of mine) the Mafan Olympics (mafan= 'hassle').

But I decided some time ago that people really ought to remember these Games as

the Chai Olympics

because the brutal eradication of so many close-knit communities, the obliteration of so much architecture and history, the foolhardy ripping out of so much of the city's heart & soul, that's what will be, I'm afraid, the one really lasting legacy of the 2008 Olympics.

(Many thanks to my friend The Artist for realising this design.)

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