Last Friday night, I settled down to watch a movie with my family, but before starting it, we decided to check out the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Three hours later, we still hadn’t watched the movie, but we had witnessed an incredible show.
The performance was, in a word, amazing. Bird’s Nest stadium, the amount of people involved and the coordinated routines were beyond my wildest imaginations of what the ceremony was going to be like. The sheer scale of the ceremony was mind-boggling.
The fact that so many people could do something in unison was incredibly compelling. It appears that the Chinese are working hard to present a certain image to the world, and with the Opening Ceremony, they succeeded in saying, “We have arrived,” to the estimated one billion viewers.
Part of my deep interest in the Olympics comes from having attended the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. At those Olympics, I was awed by the scale of the operation, the incredible athletes and the nationalism the Games inspired in people. But the 2002 Opening Ceremony paled in comparison to what I witnessed on Friday night.
This is partly because the United States was not trying to prove itself in 2002, as the country has hosted the Olympics many times. China is attempting to change its image in the world with these Games. Whether it will succeed remains to be seen.
What You See and What You Get
Many people were in a tizzy when it was revealed that some of the fireworks at the Opening Ceremony were not real, live-action fireworks. The show was so extravagant that the revelation was not all that surprising. But it leads to a deeper question of what is real and not real at these Games, and the image China is trying to project to the world.
Then there are the girls in the gymnastics competition who claim to be 16 years old but look more like 12-year-olds. Even after winning the gold medal early in the week, questions persisted around the ages of some of the athletes, somewhat souring the sweet victory.
As I’m working on this piece, I just saw that the little girl with pigtails and a red dress who sang at the Opening Ceremony was not actually the little girl whose voice we heard. Her voice was dubbed with another girl’s voice who was judged not cute enough to appear on television (she looks perfectly adorable to me).
The explanation for this bit of trickery was as follows according to The New York Times, “The reason was for the national interest,” said Chen Qigang, general music designer of the Opening Ceremony, who revealed the deception during a Sunday radio interview. “The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.”
Fairness at the Olympics
The issue of fairness at the Olympics has long been a problem. At the 2002 Olympics, there were questions about whether the ice skating judges were being fair in their scores. While it was somewhat distracting to me as a fan attending the Games, I didn’t really let it get in the way of enjoying the competition. Whatever the scores, it was an incredible experience to witness that many top-level athletes perform.
It seems that every Olympics is plagued by its own set of issues, but ultimately the Games serve to unite the world in competition and sport. They inspire nationalism in those who might not normally feel patriotic or root for the home team. And they help us learn about other cultures as we watch people from across the world compete and live together for two weeks.
What other revelations will come to light during the Olympics remains to be seen. These issues will be critical to how the world views China after the Olympics are over. China is clearly trying to find its place in the world with the Games, and only time will tell whether it succeeds.
What do you think of the Olympics so far? How have they altered your view of China? Email us with your response or join the discussion on the blog at http://www.iconoclast-investor.com
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Facts About the Olympics
Every week at work we have game day where one person brings in a game or quiz for the rest of the office to play. This week it was my turn and I made a quiz about the Olympics. Here are some interesting Olympics facts I found while doing my research that you can use to wow your friends and family while watching the Games.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France.
Two cities in the United States have hosted the games twice–Los Angles in 1932 and 1984 and Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980.
There were no Olympics held in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because of World War I and World War II.
The first year the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics were held separately was 1994.
An Olympiad is the four-year interval in between each Olympics.
The five rings on the Olympic flag represent the regions of the world united by the Games–the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia.
The colors of the Olympic flag–white, yellow, blue, red, black and green–are each found in at least one flag of every country in the world.
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In case you didn’t get a chance to read all the issues of Cabot Wealth Advisory this week and want to catch up on any investing and stock tips you might have missed, we have links below to each issue.
Cabot Wealth Advisory 8/11/08 – Biotech Blast-Off
On Monday, Timothy Lutts wrote about why he’s stuck on biotech stocks. Tim likes the stocks because they’re strong and many actually boast growing earnings trends. Tim also likes that the stocks have failed many times in past decades to put together a lasting advance, so maybe now is the time. And finally, because there will be tremendous demand for health-improving products as baby-boomers age, biotechnology offers the best chance we have to stay healthy. Stock featured in this issue: Illumina (NSDQ: ILMN)
On Thursday, Paul Goodwin wrote about how to approach investing if you’re too old to start young. Paul also discussed naked short selling and the recent action taken by the SEC to extend the ban on it to companies with high exposure to mortgage debt, including Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and 17 big investment banks. Paul ended with a discussion of a company, Axsys Technologies, which has used its precision optical systems to cover the Olympics in Beijing. Stock featured in this issue: Axsys Technologies (NSDQ: AXYS).
Editor’s Note: Whatever happens at the Olympics, there’s no denying that China and the other emerging markets offer a great path to diverse growth investing. Hulbert Financial Digest has ranked Cabot China & Emerging Markets report the #1 newsletter for 2006 and 2007 because it provides extraordinary opportunities to invest in and profit from the world’s fastest growing economies. Click the link below to learn how you can diversify your investments in high-growth areas.
Until Next Time,
Editor of Cabot Wealth Advisory