Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The chai Olympics

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but, alas, I no longer have a functional version of Photoshop on either of my computers (hence the dearth of photographs on my blogs of late).

This character - chai - means 'demolish', and it is daubed on the walls of buildings shortly before the bulldozers arrive. Sometimes, you wonder if this isn't about the only warning the soon-to-be-displaced residents get. Sometimes, indeed, the demolition seems to follow so swiftly that I speculate there may be dozens of opportunistic wrecking crews roaming the city, authorised to raze any chai'd building they find and claim a bounty for their good work. (I'm kidding about that, of course. I don't think even the Chinese would try taking market economics to that extreme. Would they???)

The wholesale destruction of great swathes of Beijing - often in a rather chaotic and unplanned way - has been one of the sorriest consequences of awarding the Olympics to China. Many of the most charming and characterful old neighbourhoods have been ruthlessly flattened to facilitate the city's misconceived plans for modernisation. The dreaded chai symbol has swept through the hutongs like a plague.

We've heard a number of unflattering slogans for these Games now, of course: the Genocide Olympics (thank you, Mia - you take the prize for hysterical overstatement), the "1936 All Over Again" Olympics (makes a similar point, but more broadly and more humorously), the "No Fun" Olympics, the Fenqing Olympics (fenqing are the objectionable, hysterical young nationalists who are the Chinese government's unfortunate 'blowback' from years of unremitting propaganda), and (another favourite of mine) the Mafan Olympics (mafan= 'hassle').

But I decided some time ago that people really ought to remember these Games as
the Chai Olympics
because the brutal eradication of so many close-knit communities, the obliteration of so much architecture and history, the foolhardy ripping out of so much of the city's heart & soul, that's what will be, I'm afraid, the one really lasting legacy of the 2008 Olympics.

(Many thanks to my friend The Artist for realising this design.)


The British Cowboy said...

And here I was thinking chai meant "crappy pretentious bastardization of tea sold for ridiculous sums in Starbucks to people who wouldn't know a real cup of tea if it inserted hot needles into their gonads."

I learn something new every day on your blog, Froog.

Froog said...

And I learn something new (though usually something that I would have been happier not knowing) from you, Cowboy.

Really, they have scrotally injected tea at Starbucks now?? I'm so glad I never go.

Anonymous said...

Your Olympic chai looks quite authentic. It could pass for a public information sign if one didn't know better.

btw, You write very well.

Also glad to see you have roped in The A on this. If you get done for blaspheming on the olympic rings your co-conspiritor will get it too.

Well, only if you talk that is. But now The BC has invented a new and previously unknown torture, " scrotally injected tea", they will know what to do to you to get a name.

The British Cowboy said...

No no no no no. Read for comprehension, people!

The tea is not scrotally injected. The tea is inserting hot needles into people's gonads. And if it did, people would still not recognize tea.

Froog said...

Does this tea of your imagination wear a long black mac and a trilby and a monocle, Cowboy? And murmur, "Ve haf vays of mekking you tok"?