Introduction of Beijing’s Olympic Games
Beijing’s Olympic Games are confined today to the world’s most crowded city. There are only 11,000 foreign athletes, media crews and guests who will be met at the airport by workers in biohazard suits. Before Zhang Hua goes down for breakfast, he puts on a mask and rubber gloves. He leaves his hotel room and walks through halls while keeping a safe distance from others.
The Ebola Outbreak in China
The Olympics are taking place in an area that will never be completely empty – but only because China has built a vast network of massive highways and subways that provide a convenient and fast way to move people from one part of the city to another.
It’s also a huge metropolitan area with a huge population, which means that the city is small enough to be easily accessible by car or public transport. This means that, on any given day (or night) you can find very few buildings left empty: large portions are occupied by hotels or hostels; restaurants are packed with hungry guests; and workers are swarming around businesses and construction sites – making it possible for them all to fit into one room.
There is one very important difference between this world outside and the world inside: The Olympic Games have so far only been held while it was quiet outside, meaning that complete silence is rarely experienced except when something goes wrong (like when athletes cross the finish line), or when someone cuts in front of you on their way out (which has happened).
Few common questions in the mind of China crowd
- Faced with such a large, diverse crowd, what do you do if someone doesn’t want to go home?
- What if there’s nothing more exciting than watching your favourite sports programme?
- What if you won top marks for your project but need more time to prepare for your final presentation?
- What if you have several friends coming over for a party but don’t know where you should stay?
- Why not just stay here?
Unfortunately, most people don’t have anywhere else to go. There are no schools in Beijing – they didn’t exist before the Olympics – so children must be educated elsewhere.
There aren’t any parks where they can play together; they couldn’t afford them before. So many families live in cramped apartments with no space between them; homes often fall into disrepair because there isn’t money for repairs; and small businesses can close down because there isn’t enough demand for their goods (yet).
Of course some people will take advantage of their situation by moving away from the city altogether.
The Spread of Ebola in China
Since the start of this year, there have been dozens of suspected cases of Ebola in China (though the total number is yet to be confirmed). It is an issue with huge consequences.
The epidemic is spreading across the country and killing hundreds at a time. Most of these cases are in rural areas where infected people are isolated.
The first outbreak was in 2014, when two people died after contracting Ebola in southern China’s Guangxi region. This was followed by further cases in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, but all were contained within a week.
In response to this outbreak, China has implemented strict quarantine schemes and increased screenings for travellers from affected countries. Since October last year, all foreign travellers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria have been banned from entering the country due to fears that they may become infected with Ebola.
On 3 November 2015, Shanghai authorities announced that they had arrested five Chinese nationals on suspicion of being involved with the spread of Ebola. They were taken into custody after receiving reports that two men had stayed at a hotel owned by a Chinese businessman who admitted having contact with patients in Sierra Leone (he had stayed in Sierra Leone previously on business).
Such measures have failed to stem the spread of Ebola, which has now killed 1,872 people worldwide since it emerged at the beginning of February 2014 (the number of deaths has been higher than any other infectious disease since World War II).
The Lack of Personal Hygiene in China
There are a lot of conventions and rules in modern life, but few people really seem to apply them. Take the “personal hygiene” rule: even though you might want to take a shower before going out, you usually don’t. Why? Because it makes you feel dirty. In China, people normally take off their shoes when they enter a restaurant or cafe (including public toilets).
The reason is because they believe that if they do, they will be seen as unhygienic and dirty, so they avoid it. I am never surprised when I go on a trip and see someone wearing perfectly clean shoes at an airport or metro station; I just run into someone who has left their shoes there for the day…
This is an example of how China’s obsession with cleanliness manifests itself: the Chinese believe that anything which is not sanitary should be avoided. When I say this is true in all of China and not just Beijing, it is because it comes across more strongly in China than anywhere else (which would make sense since the Chinese are generally more conscious of social norms than anyone else).
I think this is the main reason why all those so-called sanitation campaigns never work: most people simply don’t have any real incentives to follow them; and even if they did follow them, most would still be too lazy or too cheap to put up with being handled by strangers every day (this doesn’t mean we should stop trying.)
The Beijing Olympics have been an event of controversy: poverty, pollution, even terrorism. But the people of Beijing are centered around the games.
In a city that is as densely populated as Manhattan Island, it’s no wonder why it’s so congested and smoggy. The air is thick with smoke from factories and cars. The air quality index in Beijing is the worst of any major city.
The Great Wall of China’s sprawling borders mean nothing for Beijingers who live within a 10 kilometer radius. The subway system eats up their precious time on foot, but they still want to get there faster than others.
Beijingers admit that they would rather see their city win than see other cities lose . But then again, winning doesn’t mean much for them either .
So what about the Chinese? How do they feel about this “World’s Most Crowded City”?
What do they think about getting so close to the Olympic venues?
How do they feel when foreign media crew members are too close to competitors? How do they feel when foreign guests are too close to them?
Do they really want to be here at all?
All these questions and more are asked in this premiere episode of “Chinese Culture & Sports Podcast!”