Like I’ve said previously, I enjoy watching Olympians do things I couldn’t even dream of doing. Right now I’m watching the women’s marathon (on fast forward). I might be able to keep up… on a bike. Mostly, I’m watching to see views of Beijing. “Hey, we saw that! That looks like the gate we went out at the Temple of Heaven… wonder how they got rid of all the taxis?”
When I was a midshipman, it was very popular to go run the Marine Corps Marathon in DC every year. Remarkably, knowing something about how bad a runner I was, people still asked me, “Aren’t you running this year?” I finally scared people off with, “Any race tradition that starts with someone running 26.2 miles, gasping, ‘We won!’ and falling over dead just isn’t my idea of a good time.”
Mostly, though, I’m wondering why the women wear such skimpy outfits.
The marathoner women are mostly wearing bikinis. The paper with their competitor numbers on it completely cover most of their tops, so it isn’t always clear that they are wearing tops. The marathoner men wear shorts.
The beach volleyball women wear bikinis, sometimes with less-than-opaque panels. The men wear shorts and tank tops.
The male gymnasts wear a leotard thing, then switch between long pants and shorts, depending on the event. The women wear just the leotard.
What, exactly are we watching? The sports or the women? And why do they put up with this?
(I won’t even get started on the ice dancing and ice skaters’ costumes, with the flesh-toned fabric to make them look even less covered than they already are.)
And then there’s the commentators.
Bob Costas is ok. I actually like him. On the other hand, the football guy gushing that, “Hey, I’m a football guy! I’m out of words for this!” on the second day as he exhausted his store of superlatives made me wish the network had given him a thesaurus… unfortunately, his lack of words didn’t stop him from talking. Many of the other commentators have been fine, but the dumb slips tend to stand out. “She was adopted by her parents.” (I assume he was trying to say something nice, but it came out as, “Wow, an adoptee came out ok… how strange and noteworthy.”) A lot of the comments during the opening ceremonies were, shall we say, somewhat lacking in intelligence.
Mary Carillo, especially, annoys me. Somebody chose to put her in the position of doing these “day in the life” stories about China… which she obviously knows nothing about. The bit with the tallest man on earth made me cringe; it came across like a sideshow freak act at a circus. Singing loudly in the teahouse could only be described as the height of cultural insensitivity. The entire piece on Chinese food reminded me of the people in my adoption group who were scared to eat out of the hotel, but wanted snake on their last night in China, apparently to give them a “Wow, Chinese are weird!” story to tell at home. Mary Carillo apparently missed the fabulous poached pepper beef, the various spicy chicken dishes, wonderful vegetables, etc. … and focused mostly on the scorpion-on-a-stick. She also gleefully pointed out that, of course, she had hardly actually eaten anything.
Generally, if you’re going to report on a country for the Olympics, you should talk about their culture with respect. Of course, with China, you could talk about the roaring economy, the drastic changes in the country, the fabulous history, the importance of food (I would guess the Chinese would not appreciate the picture NBC chose to paint), or any number of other things.
What makes me nervous is that Mary Carillo is rumored to have a piece on Americans in China to adopt coming up in the next few days.
The coverage of the Seoul Olympics in 1988 included a scathing report on the huge number of Korean children being sent overseas for adoption. The report exposed the awful state of the orphanages and discussed the problems that were driving the abandonment of so many children. The Korean government was humiliated. South Korea had lost face, held up before the world as a country that couldn’t even take care of its own children. “Fine,” the Korean government said, “We can too take care of our own children. So, to prove it, we will decrease the number of children adopted overseas by 10% each year. In ten years, we will send no more Korean children overseas to be adopted.”
The number of Korean children abandonned probably didn’t decrease, but the number of children sent overseas to find new families decreased drastically. South Korea never reached its goal of zero overseas adoptions (conditions in Korea are just too difficult, apparently), but it is no longer one of the major international adoption countries.
In the end, thousands of children grew up in orphanages so that a government could save face because the TV network needed a human interest story to fill some airtime in their Olympic coverage.
One of the glossy news magazines already tried to do it again with their cover story about orphans being China’s big, new export. (I looked, but can’t find it, but I distinctly remember the cover with the cute Chinese baby within the last year, and I thought I remembered it being Newsweek.)
Will they do it again? China’s overseas adoption processing has slowed to a trickle over the last few years. There aren’t fewer orphans… just fewer being sent to the families waiting for them. Is this the beginning of the end for Chinese adoptions, or just another bureaucratic glitch?
In either case, I wish I didn’t have to rely on the ditzy reporting in NBC’s “daily life” coverage to not make a horrible misstep if they do, in fact, talk about overseas adoptions from China… because I’m pretty sure they’ll jump in with both feet, completely oblivious to the ramifications of their choice of subject and wording.
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