China: Games and prestige, by Jorge Dezcallar

Being a home spectator of sports is exhausting. After the five long hours of Rafa Nadal’s unforgettable match, my arm still hurts from trying to help him from my chair so that he returned, from the back of the court, the blows that the Russian sent him. And now, with no time to recover from my tendinitis, the Winter Olympics are starting in China and I’m getting ready to slide down those icy slopes at a dizzying pace. If Nadal left my arm sore, it scares me now to think of sprains or a broken leg…

Beijing is the first city to hold both the Winter and Summer Olympics, which it hosted in 2008. And it wants brag about efficiency without falling into the expense of Sochi, which spent the incredible sum of 53,000 million dollars, or South Korea, where they cost 13,000. Xi Jinping He has said that he will only spend 3,000 million on these Games and has been personally involved in the preparations, blatantly stating that “Beijing 2022 will give a good image of our country”. That is the goal. As part of that gigantic propaganda effort, Xi also wants no trouble with the virus and has taken extreme measures in the service of his ‘zero covid strategy’. Whatever the cost, even if entire cities have to be isolated. That is why the Games will be seen on television and with very few carefully selected viewers.

China intends to take advantage of these Games to send the world a image that demonstrates the superiority of your model on Western democracies, which in his opinion are in irreversible decline. He wants to show that an authoritarian state is capable of mobilizing resources more quickly and efficiently, without wasting time on the endless discussions and transparent procedures typical of systems where the elected have to account for their management. It is the same thing that he has done since the pandemic began with his generous and nothing disinterested diplomacy of donating vaccinesrespirators, masks, etc. to countries without the financial muscle to acquire them, while presenting this policy as the antithesis of the hoarding selfishness of Western countries.

China organizes these Games as a matter of prestige and power. Not because he thinks that at this point he needs to prove anything, as was still the case in his previous Olympic event in 2008, but because he wants to present them as a visible manifestation of his current power and rise to world hegemony. In this way, the Games constitute a true challenge from China to the world. Stadiums are built, others are adapted, roads are built, trees are planted, sports venues are joined with high-speed trains, the terrible air pollution that makes it impossible to breathe in some cities is eliminated (a situation that some describe as an “airpocalypse”) and if there is no snow there, something particularly important in a Winter Games, cannons are placed that cover the slopes with artificial snow down which the skiers will slide at breakneck speeds. And to make them work, water is carried from great distances through huge pipes. Whatever it takes to show a powerful and self-confident China.

Putin has traveled to Beijing despite being very busy these days with the Ukraine crisis. friends first

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Xi also does not want criticism for human rights like the ones Mia Farrow championed at the 2008 Games. If then it was because of the genocide in Darfur, now it is because of what is happening in Xinjiang, Hong-Kong, Tibet, etc.. And although some other countries such as the United States have declared a diplomatic boycott of the opening of these Games and have even pressured – apparently unsuccessfully – the UN Secretary General not to attend either, Putin has traveled to Beijing despite being very busy these days with the crisis of Ukraine. Friends first. Just in case, athletes, organizers and sponsors have been told both discreetly and firmly to avoid political criticism of China during the Games. And they are careful. The International Olympic Committee itself has set the standard by downplaying the accusations of sexual harassment against a hierarch of the regime by the triolympic tennis player Peng Shuai, who then disappeared for a while to publicly retract when she reappeared. That’s how things are over there.

So politics aside, get comfortable in your favorite seat because the show will be worth it.

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