After five weeks here, I’ve accumulated about a day-and-a-half of vacation time. So the obvious question is: should I fly to China for the Olympics?
There’s a lot to take into account while making this decision.
On the one hand, the Beijing Olympics is China’s coming out party. It’s a chance to see the best athletes live in person doing what they do best. It’s an opportunity to visit a vastly different culture and eat authentic kong po chicken.
On the other hand, I can’t bring my crossbow into events.
Over the last week, the Chinese government has revised its list of articles banned at the Games. The list of banned items now consists of guns, knives and crossbows.
Oh yeah, there’s also bats, ammunition, flammable materials, corrosive chemicals, radioactive materials, long poles, animals (with the exception of guide dogs), vehicles, loudspeakers, radios, laser devices and wireless devices.
Fireworks are also banned, which seems ironic for China, until you consider the logistical nightmare of a stadium of 80,000 people conducting a Chinese-fire-drill.
But who needs any of those items as long as you have your nation’s flag to wave? Just be sure to measure your flag because those exceeding one metre by two metres are not allowed.
So if it’s too big, just leave it at home with your banners and placards, which are also banned.
The issue of flag size is definitely a touchy subject; patriotism is one of the most inflexible of human allegiances.
If you try to confiscate a person’s national flag, they’d likely spit in your face and use copious amounts of uncouth language. Perhaps that’s why spitting and swearing are also banned — those Chinese are a crafty bunch.
If you’re gun lover who is also fanatical about showing your patriotism, you’ve probably got one question on your mind: what about Jesus?
Well, rest assured, the Chinese government is hoping to make Christians feel at home during their stay, having ordered 110,000 copies of the Bible to be distributed in Beijing and in other cities hosting the Games.
Just don’t go waving it around at events, because, guess what — banned.
So, should we care? No, for two reasons.
It’s not like all this was unforeseeable.
The Chinese have never been known for the open exchange of ideas (see Tiananmen Square, 1989). And they didn’t just start cracking the heads of Tibetan monks this year.
In fact, China and Tibet have had a bit of a shaky relationship — to put it mildly — for more than 60 years.
After all, China was chosen to host the Olympics, so they call the shots. That’s the naked truth, (figuratively, of course, since nudity is banned.)
Second, believe it or not, the Olympics are about sports, not human rights, politics, animal rights or the environment. (By the way, items related to these topics are not allowed at events.) Sports are designed to distract us from grim realities, such as pollution. So just sit back, take a deep breath — not in Beijing because its air pollution is horrendous — and enjoy the Games.
Granted, given all these stringent rules, you might be asking whether the people attending the Games are going to enjoy themselves.
Well, you can bet on it. Just not literally — gambling is banned too.