Beijing 2008: The Earthy Games

The Beijing Olympics start four months from today, that is, if the Olympic torch ever actually makes it there. With all the protests about Tibet, that's questionable, but if the Games do get started, they may be the oddest ever. If you don't believe me, just take a look at some headlines from the official web site.
Beijing has world's largest number of public toilets

Some nations brag about the medal count, but we all know the toilet count is far more important.

Lu Haijun, director of the Beijing Municipal Administration Commission, has said that with 5,174 public toilets, Beijing has already outpaced New York, London and Tokyo.

Bravo! In related news, last July, the Beijing Olympic Media Centre organized a special "press event to visit Qingyang sewage farm." Wow, do they really know how to wine and dine the press in order to get preferential coverage? I can't wait to see what else they have planned. I'm sure the journalists can't wait either.

Air travel "safe," says official

This has to be the least persuasive headline about air travel I have ever seen. I can just imagine the air quotes the official was using as he was saying this. I flew on Air China once, and I can attest that it was "completely" and "entirely" "safe." It only took me a few days to stop shaking.

Beijing seeds clouds to create biggest rain of this spring

As some may know, China is planning to use rockets to control the weather during the Opening Ceremonies. Last month, in order to relieve draught conditions, China used this technology to "create the biggest rainfall of the spring."

The weather-control bases launched rockets and fired artillery shells containing silver iodine into the sky in the cloud-seeding operation. . . . Beijing and more than 100 cities and towns in Hebei saw rain.

So that's not terrifying at all. By the way, in case you were wondering, "China has 6,781 artillery guns and 4,110 rocket launchers in its rainmaking arsenal." Grammatically speaking, one wonders if this is a case where rainmaking ought to be in quotes too.

The 2,008 honorary visitors of the official website announced

In order to draw attention to their web site, Olympic officials designated 2,008 lucky luminaries as Official Honorary Visitors to their web site. These visitors will "help to promote the Olympic Games by way of the Internet," preferably without spamming people too much. All Official Honorary Visitors receive special "membership certificates with unique serial numbers," also known as cookies.

As they say in the news release:

The campaign fully reflects the spirit of the motto, "I participate, I contribute, and I enjoy."

That's really how I like to live my life, but it's also a motto of the Beijing Olympics. It could just as well be the motto of the Internet as a whole.

Strangely enough, one of these Official Honorary Visitors is former NBA star Scottie Pippen. Pippen traveled all the way to China last summer to accept the honor, apparently not realizing that he could just as easily have become a Non-Official Non-Honorary Visitor by using his browser at home. Still, there are benefits to becoming an Official Honorary Visitor. It means that you don't actually have to visit the web site yourself, if you don't want to. In the same way, I like to consider myself an Official Honorary Viewer of Olympic gymnastics.

Teams set up to discipline pedestrians

Wow, it was already scary enough being a pedestrian in Beijing, but now pedestrians have to worry about being disciplined too. Luckily, rogue pedestrians will not be taken out back and shot, but instead will be given a penalty flag. One would think getting run over by a Beijing cab driver would be penalty enough.

No spit: Beijing's latest etiquette campaign draws mixed reaction

Despite the apparent pun in the headline, Beijing is serious about cutting down on public spitting. One of the ways they are doing this is by having a special "No Spitting Day."

According to the site, this was inspired by "Queuing Day," which is held on the 11th of every month. Queuing Day is what it sounds like, a day in which Chinese citizens practice standing in line. Despite the practice, experts predict there is still little chance the Chinese can catch the British for the Gold.

As for spitting, there is much debate in Beijing about whether such a ban is necessary. Some feel that spitting is natural and healthy. Others think it is, to use a technical term, gross. At one event, "campaigners gave out a total of 50,000 spit napkins" so that people would not spit on the ground. How charming. There is nothing that conjures up the spirit of the Olympic Games quite like the term "spit napkin."

If "No Spitting Day" is a success, prepare for the thrill and pageantry of "No More Spit Napkins Day" next month. I can't wait.


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