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“Olympians are the product of the Movement, and to get them to the stadiums, pools and playing fields, it takes the actions of legions of people who might not be Olympians.”

Bill Toomey, 1968 Olympic decathlon champion

The Beijing Olympic in the summer of 2008 is unarguably the largest Olympic ever happened, in terms of the number of people or money involved, in the history of the modern Olympic. Many may still remember its spectacular and spellbinding opening ceremony, or the problematic torch relay. And it’s also be a special one. For the Chinese government, the Olympic events, as well as the medals won by Chinese athletes, were a great source of national pride. It’s a way for general publics to channel their patriotism, or one may say, recovered the loss of the Sichuan Earthquake which happened months before the game.

The series portraits of citizens from different places of China were done outside the venues of the games. Many of them just couldn’t afford tickets of the game, they just came there and hang around. They treated the venues which were built with billions of dollars, notably Beijing National Stadium, a.k.a. “Bird’s Nest” and Beijing National Aquatics Center a.k.a. “Water Cube, as other historical monuments in Beijing. Or as I mentioned above, they came there for the feeling of “national pride”. These venues together with the nearly ecstasy atmosphere in beijing city, worked like a magnet to draw huge number of people from different provinces of China to the capital city. They behave in the same collective manner, they show their pride as if the state built the whole Olympic for them. However in reality they were not being a part of it and they didn’t have a single complaint.

At the same time the cityscape of Beijing spoke for itself. While there were massive efforts to facelift the city, there is hardly a harmony between the space and the people itself. This ambiguous relation sounds like telling the other side of the story in which the propaganda never covers. I may say the Chinese people themselves are the real “Olympians”, investing their hopes on the event, and they know they have little chance to be rewarded.

Dustin Shum
Jan, 2009