August 4, 2008 – It was all so well planned over the last seven years. Beijing 2008 was to be China’s coming out party to the world. Spending billions of dollars on Beijing’s Olympic venues was to be a statement of China’s growing international power during these 2008 Olympic Games.
All internal protests against the country’s abysmal human rights record would be eliminated under the wide cloak of Olympic security. For the ongoing problems with human rights in Tibet, Darfur, and Myanmar, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) would surely provide political cover by arguing that international protest is not appropriate for the athletes of Olympic sport.
It was thought that even Beijing’s dubious air quality could be controlled. Clouds would be seeded promoting air cleansing rain. Polluters could be put on a schedule or moved outside of the city. Cars would be allowed into Beijing only at designated times. Chinese people and business could be relocated anytime even by force, if ever the need arose.
As we approach the 2008 Olympic Games next month in Beijing, it has now become clear not only what can be controlled, but also what cannot. Human dissent can be controlled by government force and propaganda. The IOC may be controlled and politically manipulated on a variety of issues including human rights. Building huge and impressive Olympic stadiums and swimming pools on time are certainly within government control. However, it has once again become very clear that nature and the environment are not under the control of any man, government institution, or state.
Indeed, maybe it was the fact that China was promoting these Olympic Games as environmentally friendly in a host city that has the worst quality of air in the world that tempted fate. It could be that holding these Games during the Chinese year of the brown earth rat became problematic. Maybe it was just plain old-fashioned bad luck and timing. Whatever the reason, it is clear that, for these 2008 Games in Beijing, China cannot control Mother Nature’s Olympic rebellion.
Consider that the air in China has never been worse than it is today. Despite all the cloud seeding, environmental monitoring, pollution control schedules, and forced business relocations, people with breathing problems of any type simply cannot go outside into the polluted Beijing air. So, the 2008 Olympic games will be held in the world’s worst air and athletes will be at risk while various outdoor Olympic events will be compromised or even cancelled.
Also, consider that China has been dealing with the effects of a massive earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in May. The damage was centered in the central part of the country and the government has had to commit a large amount of troops and resources to deal with the aftermath. The earthquake came at the worst possible time for the Chinese government as it was dealing with an uprising in Tibet and preparing security for the August Olympic games.
Hurricane Nargis has also done little to help the international reputation of China in 2008. The hurricane devastated Myanmar (Burma) and left everyone in the international community wondering how China can continue to provide United Nations sponsorship to such an incompetent and paranoid regime. Myanmar’s junta has defied the United Nations and consistently refused to allow international relief into their devastated and starving country.
However, nature’s conspiracy of stubborn air pollution, devastating hurricanes, and massive earthquakes were just the prelude to a new challenge in 2008 for Olympic China. There is now a red tide in the Yellow Sea. Media reports estimate that as many as 20,000 people and 1,000 boats have been ordered to participate in scooping algae out of the Yellow Sea. In fact, the official news agency, Xinhua, reported that algae currently covers one third of the coastal waters designated for the Olympic races. The algae is choking large stretches of the coastline and threatening to impede the 2008 Olympic competition.
Water quality has been a concern for the sailing events, given that many coastal Chinese cities dump untreated sewage into the sea. At the same time, rivers and tributaries emptying into coastal waters are often contaminated with high levels of nitrates from agricultural and industrial runoff. These nitrates contribute to the red tides of algae that are now found along China’s coastline.
There are many things governments can control through force and propaganda. However, nature is not yet one of them. Real environmental problems; such as, air and water pollution, can not be easily solved or hidden from public view. Natural disasters, hurricanes, and earthquakes create a national crisis that can quickly display a government’s paranoia and incompetence.
It looks like the forces of nature have conspired in 2008 to highlight for the entire world many of China’s problems. All of this was not part of China’s carefully scripted Olympic plan. The truth is that for these so called „Green Games“, China simply cannot control nature’s 2008 Olympic rebellion.
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James William Smith has worked in senior management positions for some of the largest financial services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. Mr. Smith has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Boston College. He enjoys writing articles on political, national, and world events. Visit his website at www.eworldvu.com