Beijing’s Olympic Funk
|Our Correspondent||Jul 18, 2008|
Two rather odd
pieces of news were circulating in China last week, at a time when
increasingly nervous authorities grow more prudish about the
possibility that somebody, somewhere, will do something that
embarrasses the country in advance of the US$42 billion Olympic
Games, which are due to start in August.
carried by Xinhua as a photo story, was of the rather buff Guangdong
TV news presenter, Ou Zhihang, doing naked pushups in front of
Chinese landmarks. He was snapped in the buff in front of the Bird’s
Nest (Beijing’s main Olympic venue, the National Stadium), on
the top of the Great Wall, and what should have been very early in
the morning in Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Square among others.
“I love my country, I also love my body,” Xinhua
cites him as saying in his blog. “I contrast my tiny body
with the ‘miracle of the world’ through the popular
exercise – push ups.”
One can only be thankful he chose
the push up and not the squat jump.
Xinhua, though, got it wrong. Ou
explains on his blog that the photos were taken last year as
an experimental project with a number of famous artists. The images
have recently been hijacked by bloggers mocking the official handling
of the mysterious death of a teenage girl which had sparked riots in
Weng’an County, Guizhou province, last month. Bloggers started
using the catchphrase “doing push ups,” to poke fun at
the official explanation of her death which stated the 15-year-old
girl was not raped and murdered as rioters claimed but had drowned
herself while her male friend did push ups nearby. Ou distances
himself from the online protest saying “I love my motherland,”
and that the purpose of his naked push up collection -- is opposite
to that of the bloggers.
The odd thing is Xinhua still
published the photo story despite its sensitive political
connotations, albeit without any context.
At the same time Ou’s bare
buttocks were pumping on China Daily’s Web site, agencies
reported that the government was getting skittish about the country’s
night-time entertainment industry. As part of a campaign against
drugs and prostitution, staff at karaoke bars and nightclubs will be
required to dress more conservatively and install see-through windows
in private rooms to deter any hanky-panky. These measures weren’t
specifically for the Olympics though, venues have until October 1 to
drive against sin – and any kind of fun at all – during
the Olympics is very much in progress.
months back, with two major annual music festivals – the Midi
Rock Festival and Chaoyang Park Music Festival -- going under.
Organizers said the police couldn’t guarantee security with the
extra work they needed to do preparing for the Games, which is more
or less a face-saving way of banning them. Back in April, Maggie’s,
a seedy bar famous for its Mongolian working girls, also padlocked
its front door just weeks after forking out for a renovation. However
that may be less to do with the Games than with some dodgy goings on
in the underworld. Urban rumor has it that the bar shut shop after
two of its hookers were found brutally murdered with their livers cut
out. The Den, another working girl favorite, and Hooters next door
are firmly in business, at least for now.
been making regular raids on bar districts such as Sanlitun, warning
club owners that during the Olympics it’s lights out at 2 am.
Destination, the city’s only gay club, has had to block off
their dance floor. The sight of hundreds of gay men clad in white
singlets flirting on the street in the early hours of the morning was
too much for the PSB. The club was told it was too small to be a club
and it had to enlarge before they could let the gay boys dance again.
The city’s main gay sauna was raided a couple of months back
when some of the workers and patrons were detained for several days
and only released after paying “fines,” according to an
aids activist. Destination and a string of straight clubs lie
alongside Worker’s Stadium, one of the Olympic venues. Because
of this, club owners believe they may have to close down altogether
during the three weeks of Games because the police are worried about
sensitive area is the diplomatic quarter of Jianguomen; police are
naturally jittery about protecting all those embassies. Slap bang in
the middle is Ritan Park, whose popular lakeside café bar,
called The Stoneboat, lures expatriates and local Chinese alike with
its live music – folk, jazz, maybe a little guitar solo or two.
But because of “security concerns” the Stone Boat is now
no longer allowed to hold concerts.
Olympic Village is way out in a bleak residential area near the north
fourth ring road. There’s not much there to close down except
for a wishful thinking TGI Friday’s and some hastily erected
The entertainment magazines are
pulling their hair as they can’t find anything fun to put in
their events listings for August apart from the Olympics themselves.
three gruesome days of being passed around the diplomatic switchboard
and playing telephone hide-and-go-seek with marketing execs, the list
of confirmed Olympic events consists of precisely two items, both
courtesy of the French embassy,” writes one of the main rags,
City Weekend, on its website. The two events are a French cultural
fair and “Marco Polo,” the ballet.
There is of course China’s
“biggest ever Olympic Cultural Festival” to be held
concurrently with the Games but it hasn’t seemed to generate
much interest. Which is a shame as it will no doubt incorporate
“harmonious” dances by happy ethnic minorities.
And as for the
city’s gay boys: they may have lost their dance floor to the
Olympics but at least they are free – with Xinhua’s
blessing – to ogle Ou’s bare behind as he clenches in
front of the Bird’s Nest.