On Sunday, I did my third and final interview with the BBC in which I served as contrarion to the media’s “no fun Olympics” angle. (I’ve taken a similar position in interviews with Newsweek, LA Times, CBS, and others, and done lighter pieces with The Today Show, AFP, Rocky Mountain News, and others. See the links listed below).
When you only have a minute or two to speak, you need to stick to key messages. Here were mine:
- Re Beijing’s nightlife: a few weeks ago people talked about all rooftop decks being closed, regular ID checks by police, a 2 AM curfew, the banning of blacks and Mongolians from bars, and so on. It didn’t happen.
- The bar scene has largely been “business as usual.” If you wanted to dance and drink beer all night, hang out on bar rooftops, or meet athletes, you could. I’d describe Beijing as more Harry Connick Jr. fun than Red Hot Chili Peppers fun, but fun nonetheless.
- For visitors, nightlife is only part of the experience. The city left strong impressions due to its scale, historical sites, and food, as well as its stadiums, volunteers, and five-kuai pints of beer at events. And as much as the government tried to sanitize the place, visitors got a sense of the less pleasant side of the city, including the air pollution, terrible driving etiquette, and often sloppy service.
- Finally, the government is often portrayed as exerted almost puppet master-like control of its population, but the Olympics showed how far that is from the truth, as evidenced by everything from drivers and pedestrians disregarding road rules and traffic police to people spitting on the ground and “recycling ladies” grabbing near-empty water bottles from tourists’ hands. This is not a judgment, but an observation that the government had hopes for certain etiquette and the population for the most part dashed them.
In case anyone is interested, I have listed below eight (lucky number) articles in which I was quoted. This blog was also linked to by observers such as Wondering Mind (a fellow bar lover), James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly), and Sky Canaves (Wall Street Journal), by local foodie Diana Kuan, Dan Steinberg (Washington Post) and others in response to my scorpions-on-a-stick media monitoring project, and by The Peking Duck, Huffington Post, and the Time blog in response to my posts on the South China Morning Post story that claimed Beijing planned to ban blacks and Mongolians from bars.
Fun may be a casualty of Beijing’s effort at perfect Olympic Games
- Mark Magnier, LA Times
Beijing Actually is Fun, Really
- Manuela Zoninsein, Newsweek
All games, no fun
- Simon Montlake, Christian Science Monitor
Blogging after dark
- Dan Oshinsky, Rocky Mountain News
No Fun Games? Not Exactly
- Mitch Moxley, The Walrus Magazine
Beijing’s busy nightlife
Lester Holt, NBC
A guide to Beijing’s secrets
Jennifer Pak, BBC
China Blogs to Read During the Olympics
Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service