Home > Analysis, media, Opinion > A mentally retarded journalist, take 2

A mentally retarded journalist, take 2

(Bad journalism on the left. Right column are Allen and my commentary on why. Fortunately, not all Brits are like this.)


London Games will outdo Beijing because of freedom”By JOHN LEICESTER | APPublished: Jul 26, 2011 13:11 Updated:Jul 26, 2011 22:33LONDON: If Johnnie Walker lived in China, the police would have knocked on his door by now: “You, come with us.” This is pure speculation.
Because Walker bad-mouths the Olympic Games. Publicly, vocally. To park buses and other vehicles a year from now, organizers of London 2012 have requisitioned a dozen of his best football pitches from the amateur league that Walker runs. The chirpy Londoner is, in local parlance, mightily cheesed off about that.“We’re being pushed aside for three weeks of elitist sport,” says Walker, chairman of the Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League, founded in 1947.The vast and boxy new Olympic media center to host journalists next summer, which Walker can see from his East London home, is also “bloody awful,” he gripes.“I’ve seen better buildings pulled down.” We do not have personal knowledge of what is being done on the ground in London.  But we take Walker at his word.
Sssshhh! You’ll get into trouble!That’s what we might have said to someone like Walker in Beijing in 2008. Had we actually seen and heard them, that is. Vocal complainers, impassioned protesters, critical and searching public debate about the pros and cons of an Olympics were largely notable by their absence in China. They were mostly absent because most Chinese people supported the Olympics. It’s been the dream of the Chinese people for over a century to host the Olympics.And, yes, there were Chinese people complaining too.  Oh, you expected them to complain in English didn’t you?  And, nah, they didn’t go to jail for complaining.
The Olympic movement was poorer for it.There was the brave soul I saw being marched away after he distributed leaflets outside Beijing’s Olympic park that complained about games construction.There were the labor camp grannies, Wu Dianyuan and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, ladies in their 70s who were threatened with prison after they showed that government promises were hollow and cynical. Having said they would allow protests in designated zones during the Olympics, Chinese authorities refused all those who applied. The elderly women called the government’s bluff, repeatedly trying for a permit, and were instead told they’d be sent to a labor camp for one year.After the Olympics, Wu and Wang’s sentence was revoked, but the list of people who were locked up or otherwise made to shut up was still too long for the games to leave a sweet taste, despite the sporting feats of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and other champions. Sheesh, out of 1.3 billion, you could cite only two names?  There is an elephant in front of you, and yet all you see is something deep inside his ass.This was how the elephant actually looked like.Legions of citizen volunteers pitched in to make the Olympics a success. Beijing taxi drivers learned to better speak English so they can better serve foreign guests.Service industry employees worked hard to be more hospitable.People learned to stop spitting in public to make the foreigners feel more comfortable.The reality was visitors loved the 2008 Olympics experience.  The Chinese populace loved it.Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps were all very appreciative of the Chinese.  If Olympic champions can, why can’t you?
The London Olympics a year from now won’t match Beijing for grandeur. Penny-pinching Britain doesn’t have the money-no-object resources that Communist leaders marshaled, with minimal public scrutiny, to dress China in the best possible light for its Olympic coming-out ball.London’s Olympic venues won’t be as iconic as Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium or its Water Cube where Phelps struck gold 8 times. The terrorism risk in London will be higher. The city’s groaning public transport system may not run as smoothly. The food won’t be as good.But these will still be better Olympics — in some ways, they already are — because London has the key ingredient that Beijing sorely lacked to host truly soul-searing games: freedom. If UK is poor and cannot give the world an Olympics worthy of the Olympics, London should withdraw.Talking about freedom: hey, bloke, you should go to Libya and do some soul-searching there while dodging bombs so you understand the meaning of ‘freedom.’
To feel comfortable, an enterprise as expensive, as huge and as disruptive as an Olympics should always be subject to the highest possible degrees of public scrutiny. When taxpayers watching their wallets in tough economic times are having to fund a sports event that they likely won’t even get tickets for, then they must be allowed to complain and be listened to. Officials with control over Olympic billions should publicly account for every penny. If you want to daub yourself in body paint and run through town in only your briefs and a cardboard sign reading “Olympics(equals)hate” you should be able to do that, too — without needing a permit first. The truth is most Chinese believe the Olympics was a good deal – even 3 years after the games are done. As for the transparency, most Brits – like most Americans – can’t balance their own checkbooks.  Their government doesn’t know how either.  And I’m sure if you poll Brits about where “every penny” for the upcoming Olympics is spent, few would know.Transparency is a mirage if the people realistically are not expected to understand something of this scope.Planning for the Beijing Olympics involved the attention of local as well as central gov’t. It received its share of high level of full-time, accountable scrutiny.Make protests in the streets your theme for London 2012 if you like, if that is what takes for your ‘freedom.’  Wait a minute – that needs a permit in London doesn’t it?
In Beijing, these essential elements were missing. The result was the instrumentalization of the Olympics. They became the expensive and elaborate propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party. The Olympics suffered in credibility and atmosphere as a result. In choosing Beijing, the International Olympic Committee bet that the games would spur significant human rights changes. Seeing the IOC cast around for excuses when the bet didn’t pay off was unedifying.A rare public critic of Beijing was internationally known artist Ai Weiwei. Initially a consultant on the Bird’s Nest, he later disassociated himself from the design, calling it a “fake smile” to mask social and political problems in China. Chinese authorities struck back at the outspoken Ai this year, detaining him for nearly three months on tax allegations.London 2012 is a polar opposite, operating under impressive levels of transparency and public accountability. Hot air politicking.
The Olympic movement — even a year before the flame is lit in London — is better for it.London Olympic officials are regularly and publicly grilled about everything games-related.Even expense claims filed by Olympic Delivery Authority Chairman John Armitt and other games leaders are published on www.london2012.com. Armitt spent, for example, 6 pounds, 70 pence on refreshments at London City Airport on March 1, 2010.In their glass-fronted meeting chamber that symbolizes the city’s openness, Londoners’ elected representatives last week peppered 2012 coordination director Neale Coleman with questions that drilled down to even nitty-gritty issues like the flags and bunting that will prettify the English capital.And Johnnie Walker got an hour-long meeting with Mayor Boris Johnson to tell him how unhappy he is about losing his pitches to Olympic parking. Transparency has not led to a fiscally responsible gov’t – not in the U.S., not in U.K. Why should it be the panacea here?See also above about financial transparency and hot air politicking
Openness could backfire when inevitable Olympic hiccups arrive and thousands of journalists are here next summer to record them. Transport chaos or a terror attack could hurt London’s image for years to come.“A lot of this is about reputation management,” London Assembly member John Biggs noted in the questioning of Coleman. “Journalists will be looking for other stories about how crap the food is; how the buses don’t work.”That is good. Because mega-events like the Olympics and sporting bodies like the IOC are too big and too powerful to operate in shadows. They should continually have to justify their existence, especially amid belt-tightening when some people feel the money could be better spent elsewhere. And no Olympics should be an excuse for threatening to imprison elderly women.Beijing had Bolt and Phelps and opening ceremonies so grand as to be unforgettable.But warts and all London will be more honest, and feel better for it. Now we come to what I think is the crux of the article – managing expectations.  Don’t expect much from us.  Don’t expect us to be Beijing.  Beijing was too good, too fancy for your good anyways.  We live in an era of financial turbulence. We have too much debt. We consume too much, save too little. A slim down version of the Olympics – British style – is good for Britain, and I suppose, good for humanity.My gripe? You can say the above without cursing China every other word….


  1. Gremta
    July 28th, 2011 at 09:55 | #1

    I don’t know why you are bothering with this. It’s an opinion piece, and the author is upfront that he is making an argument. It’s not reporting. When you write “this is pure speculation,” in regard to the headline, you are absolutely right – and the author would agree! He’s making an argument not a factual claim.

    yinyang – this blog is very good when it critiques reporting, and not a dumb editorial. When you do the latter, you just come off as knee-jerk and really blur what you should be doing. I’d say, stay focused on news reporting in the future. This post isn’t up to your usual standards.

  2. July 28th, 2011 at 10:02 | #2


    Thanks for the feedback. Focusing on revealing the bias in news reporting will definitely continue to be a focus of ours.

    However, the Olympics is dear to many of our hearts. This article did not appear in the op-ed section of the news. IT was in the sports page (which you might think to be “objective”!). This kind of slight of hand attack of China also needs to be dealt with.

    But we understand, given our limited resources, we need to go after the big bugs, not small ones… Sometimes, as in this case, we blog based on our emotions.

  3. July 28th, 2011 at 11:48 | #3

    A quick note about permits and zones of “free speech” in the Olympics. Such arrangements are routine in large scale events such as the Olympics, where public safety is a priority.

    A permit was required to protest in the Salt Lake City Olympics (see, e.g., http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/animal-rights-group-sues-city-over-olympics-protest-permits)>

    It was required in the Vancouver Olympics (see, e.g., http://www.nowpublic.com/world/vancouver-olympics-feature-us-style-free-speech-zones).

    In London, police have been given special additional powers to to enter homes and tear down anti-Olympics posters during 2012 Games (see, e.g., http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1201171/Police-given-powers-enter-homes-tear-anti-Olympics-posters-Games.html).

    In the upcoming Olympics in Chicago, a heavy police presence imbued with pat down searches and protest cages will be the norm rather than the exception (see, e.g., http://laworgs.depaul.edu/journals/sports_law/Documents/Pat-Down%20Searches%20And%20Protest%20Cages.pdf).

    People have a right to protest, but protest must not be targeted toward disrupting public order and public safety. Not surprisingly, a ban on noisy protests outside Parliament appears to have covered a half-mile zone as far out as the London Eye can see since late 2005 (see, e.g., http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4096194.stm).

  4. raventhorn2000
    July 28th, 2011 at 12:16 | #4

    “Free speech” zone, eh?

    Quite similar to “Permits to Travel” to Tibet, isn’t it?

    Hey, here are some places you can’t go, and there are ONLY room for a few 1000 of you in that place where you can “speak”.

    Well, if you run out of room, “no more permits” for you!

    *Now, I think Chinese “tourists” should demand to know, why they are being “banned” from going to some places in the Olympics.

    Until UK allow foreign “tourists” to travel unrestricted during Olympics, we should all assume that UK is not free, and UK is hiding something.

  5. Charles Liu
    July 28th, 2011 at 12:40 | #5

    And here’s the slight-of-hand trick – put “free speech” zone far away from the event, so media would have no choice but to cover the event over any distractions.

    See, when we accuse the Chinese, in reality they are just learning from our example.

  6. July 28th, 2011 at 15:42 | #6

    “Free Speech zone”,

    “Freedom Cage” any one?

    *Other Oxymorons I find amusing:

    (1) “Docu-Drama”, kinda like “Reality Fiction”

    (2) “Humanitarian War”, kinda like “Killing you with kindness”.

    (3) “Embedded Reporter”, kinda like “In-bedded Reporter”, more like “Paid off Prostitute”.

  7. Pete North
    July 28th, 2011 at 20:16 | #7


    “Fortunately” not all Chinese like to beat disabled street vendors to death.

    Or do they….?

  8. Al
    July 28th, 2011 at 20:54 | #8

    Pete…..you think that only happens in China? People that did almost nothing beaten to death by police etc? Think twice

  9. Pete North
    July 28th, 2011 at 21:59 | #9

    No, I don’t think it only happens in China. I just find it interesting given one of this blogs main causes is perceived bias in the media, that it chooses to frame things is such a way. If it is indeed “fortunate” not all Brits are like this, then why the need to make the comment?

  10. Al
    July 28th, 2011 at 22:32 | #10

    Are u asking yourself Pete? I don’t have an answer for you…u made the comment 🙂

  11. Pete North
    July 28th, 2011 at 22:38 | #11

    Possibly Im asking the person who made the comment, or maybe I’m just thinking out loud. I’ve seen many a poster here criticize the “Western media” for making similar comments, and justifiably so.

  12. raventhorn2000
    July 29th, 2011 at 05:17 | #12

    “If it is indeed “fortunate” not all Brits are like this, then why the need to make the comment?”

    It’s called a “RESPONSE” comment.

  13. July 29th, 2011 at 08:35 | #13

    @Pete North

    If it is indeed “fortunate” not all Brits are like this, then why the need to make the comment?

    Ans: because there are Brits who are like this – author of referenced article, for example.

  14. Silentvoice
    July 29th, 2011 at 12:54 | #14

    As a city planner who has worked in the US and in Southeast Asia, I’ll comment a little on one of the ‘chinese misdeads’.

    City planners using their power of eminent domain to seize private property– is not that uncommon a practice. Up till about the 70s, this was the norm in the US. It was only in the 80s that ‘Urban Renewal’ became a dirty word and planners gradually lost their power to carry out top-down planning. Even then, big ticket projects like the Boston Big Dig still involved the relocation of thousands of people, not all of them willingly, you can bet. We don’t do alot of that anymore because ofthe lack of funds, and also because these projects ultimately get highly politicized. That does not mean however, that forced taking of private property no longer happen. To suggest that incidents like that only occur in China is misleading.

    Lastly, I want to add that it is an insult to every professional architect who had spent on average 5 years to get a degree and another 5 years to attain a professional license to suggest that a lay person like Ai Weiwei to have “designed” the Birds Nest.

  15. July 29th, 2011 at 13:59 | #15

    I am glad you shared that perspective for us and from someone who is a city planner himself. I was in the Boston area during the time of the Big Dig, so I can relate to that one too.

    Indeed, those who are in the hurry to indict others while ignorant is one thing, but those who do so despite being told the truth is entirely something else.

  16. xian
    July 31st, 2011 at 02:45 | #16

    I agree with this one
    I don’t know how reputable arabnews.com is, but this article is just plain retarded

  17. August 10th, 2011 at 00:00 | #17

    In light of the ongoing riots in London, I hope security measures for the London won’t be so harsh come next year – making it a “no fun” Olympics….

  18. raventhorn2000
    August 10th, 2011 at 06:08 | #18

    4th night blog update on UK riots. over 16,000 police deployed to combat the violence.

    over 700 arrested now. UK police using public security camera footage to track down rioters. (UK has 1 of the highest density of public security cameras in service).


  19. raventhorn2000
    August 10th, 2011 at 06:12 | #19

    a Malaysian student was attacked and robbed by rioters in UK over night. He was returning home after buying food to break his fast.

  20. August 10th, 2011 at 12:39 | #20

    Several youths in UK arrested solely for creating “riot events” on Facebook.


  21. August 10th, 2011 at 12:45 | #21
  22. August 10th, 2011 at 12:52 | #22

    A comment for the last linked article:

    I agree with the author that in UK, as well as elsewhere, social media are becoming the underground where people who do not feel represented by the “power that be”, gather and their dissent boil to the surface, and sometimes explode.

    The power dynamics here is enlightening, because UK’s “democracy” did not provide an outlet for these underground dissenting voices.

    They do not feel represented in the system of media corporations, rich, elites, even if they have the hypothetical democracy.

    Then, I ask, what is the point of this “democracy” if it cannot serve as the steamvalve for the dissenting??

    They still go underground, where they hide, where they are still being hunted down for “incitement”.

    Sure, one can say that these people could speak freely, but just their voices don’t matter much apparently.

    So, what is power of speech, when the power of money and power silences and marginalize the dissent, until they explode?

    How is that any different from a dictatorship?

  23. August 10th, 2011 at 12:57 | #23

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