The Olympics are still more than two weeks away, and already I'm sensing some Olympic fatigue.
My own annoyances are both petty and easy to document. For one thing, pirated DVDs are now difficult to find! Another is that the police are paying more attention to foreigners. They’re actually stopping us on the street and asking to see our passports—the law stating foreigners must always have their passports with them has long been on the books, but has rarely been enforced. I also got a personal house call from my friendly local policeman. I guess waiting a few months while they checked out my background, getting a health check, being interviewed by my news company's local handler (for the press card), being interviewed by some toughs at the public security bureau (for the press visa), and registering multiple times at my local police station wasn't enough—they had to send someone around to check on me as well (who proceeded to copy down information from my press card, which one would assume he would already have, since the card was issued by them). I asked him if he was paying me a visit because of the Olympics, and he said, “No, it's for your safety! It's to protect you!” Classic.
But Olympic fatigue from Chinese is much more interesting than my own silly squabbles. Today I had a chat with a workmate in Beijing on MSN (we talked in English and it's mostly unedited):
I just feel weird that it seems the whole country's preparing for the games, everybody~~~but r we really connected to the games...... I mean, its just sport....it should be fun, relaxing..... but see BJ right now.....even missiles around the famous 鸟巢 [Bird's Nest]....what the hell~~~ok, we should protect the games from terrorists.........but its not that fun now.
It seems that we should [be connected to the games] ...the government makes me feel that I should get myself prepared for the games as a host who lives in BJ… it just makes me nervous ... not fun and interesting as i expected… these slogans~~~you can see them everywhere in BJ…. like "give the world a smile"...something like that~~~i may be too emotional....but what if I don't wanna give a smile?
I think this attitude is a symptom of the immense controversy that has surrounded the Games, and the realization by many Chinese that the Games are politicized—not just by foreign protesters, but by the Chinese government as well. In my opinion, the Chinese government, with its absurd insecurity, is more to blame for this souring attitude than foreign protesters (though protesters' glee in disparaging China, and their unwillingness to listen to intelligent Chinese opinions, is sometimes sickening to behold). The government is too anxious about how it will look to the outside world, so it puts up signs outlining in amusing detail how one should behave towards foreigners.
It seems that many people didn't realize the Games have always been politicized and always will be politicized. They just viewed the Olympics as China's chance to show its modernity off to the world, and to be a good host to foreign guests and to the foreign gaze. My workmate expressed some profound sadness about the path the Games have taken:
[I feel] like i wanna hold and host a party~~~as the host, I surely want this party to go well....but I also wanna have fun—that's the reason why i wanna hold a party......if it was not that fun to me, it failed me.