Lost Among Europeans

Olympic misunderstandings

Two curious anecdotes from the Olympic games.

The first: after the women’s gymnastics team competition, the New York Times had an article which compared the lives of the Chinese gymnasts to the Americans. The Americans lead relatively normal lives, and keep going to school. The Chinese, on the other hand, are plucked from their families at an early age, and don’t get much of an education. The article went on to make the following comment:

They eat in cafeterias, where they often use one bowl and one plate, washing them after every meal.

The horror! The extent of the disposable culture still surprises me now and then.

The second: an article in The Guardian sparked an international polemic when it commented the Spanish basketball team, the reigning champions, had posed for a photo holding the sides of their eyes to make them look Asian. This was said, by the players, to be a nod to the then-upcoming Beijing Olympiad. The article interpreted it as a racial faux pass, and reminded how Spain has been involved in racial incidents before. The funny thing is, in my opinion, that seeing this as racist implies seeing Asian eyes as somehow inferior or ugly. The Guardian had a follow-up article, after the Spanish basketball team beat the Chinese side, titled: Spain basketball team add victory to insult against China. The New York Times, and a lot of the press, was similarly inflamed.

When I was watching the USA-Spain game, the commentator said: “You would have thought that someone on the team, when taking the photo, would have stood up and said it was not a good idea”. Ah yes, because pulling the sides of your eyes is OBVIOUSLY an insult. As far as I know, this has only been an issue for the Western press, and the Chinese didn’t pay much attention. Apologies were made, and now this all seems water under the bridge. I wonder about these hypersensitive journalists and guardians of decorum and decency. With that much alertness, and such a bleeding heart for injustice, do they get any sleep?

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