In years' past, I've not watched a lot of Olympic coverage .. this year has been different for one reason .. High Definition TV. I went HD a couple months ago, and generally speaking, have given up watching non-HD television. I've enjoyed watching the odd sports, ping-pong, badminton, hand ball, etc.
What does this have to do with magic? Every time I see a magic act, however amazing, I think .. you know .. this is just a trick. The magician is not really making the rabbit disappear. He's not really pulling a quarter out of your ear. It's a trick. It's an illusion, sleight of hand, misdirection, trap doors, camera tricks. It's not witchcraft. It's human trickery designed to misdirect your senses, to create an illusion that something amazing has occurred, when in reality, the guy behind the curtain has spent hours preparing to deceive you in an amazing way.
The Beijing 2008 Olympics is a huge magic act. I wouldn't take anything away from the athletes, of course. But the show China's government is putting on, while perhaps the most grandiose in history, is also the Most Phony Olympics in History.
Starting with the glorious opening ceremonies .. the Chinese used a "prettier" 7 year old lip-syncer because the real 7 year old wasn't cute enough. Gotta fake us out.
Beijing is normally one of the most polluted cities on the globe. Not this week. They've shut down most of the factories, forced half the cars of the road, all to give the world an illusion. Those factories will be flipped back on next week, and the millions of Chinese people will again breathe soot. Another trick.
The Chinese set up a number of parks as "official protest" zones. Of course, every protest group was denied permission to actually protest. Turns out, the Chinese police went around arresting most of the people who applied. NBC did a nice piece on one of the protest applicants who disappeared shortly after her application was submitted. Again, China giving the illusion of allowing public disagreement. Just another trick.
Then there's all the Chinese athletes. Just like the USSR of old, China's government goes around finding children with potential, takes them from their families, puts them in camps to train 24/7, to give the world an another illusion. Bogus, bogus, bogus.
As I watch the show, ceremonies, and every Chinese athlete, I have this nagging feeling that if they don't march in step, bang that drum in perfect time, jump higher, throw harder, row faster, shoot sharper .. that if they don't, shortly after their event, after the TV cameras are off, the failing athletes and their families will be marched off a cliff. No wonder China has a giant lead in gold-medal count. Their athletes are extraordinarily motivated.
So .. China is spending billions on the Olympics to show the world what a super-duper nation it is .. makes me wonder, are people buying the magic act?