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August 21, 2008

Spirit Of The Games

Chinaprotestpark

I’m kicking off my own “closing ceremony” by mourning my initial excitement about the Olympics.  Looking back, it’s amazing how much and how quickly the initial propaganda-fest and the jingoism and the mind-numbing commercialism shut me down.

I give credit to the NYT, however, for returning several times to the key symbol of hypocrisy in these games.  No, not Misty May’s behind, but the unused “official protest zones.”  The first story they ran was paired with the image above showing a kid with a bottle posing in front of and as The Statue of Liberty.

Consistent with our growing Disney-fied version of the world (in which even our own rampant self-destruction can be romanticized through that cloying WALL-E), you might see the inclusion of the World Trade Towers in this mini-NY as somehow matter-of-fact.  It doesn’t surprise me, given how conditioned we are these days to see (or “buy”) but not look, to chalk-up the reconstitution of the towers as simply part of a more idealized, nostalgic and (arbitrarily) historical New York.

As the Olympics ching-ching into the marketing sunset however, what I can’t help looking at is the irony of Lady Liberty as the blasphemous mother figure of a protest park nobody succeeded in using.  And what I’m looking at also is the irony of the Trade Towers,  destroyed as a symbol of overwhelming imperial and economic power, reconstituted under the guise of freedom of dissent by an even more imperial and economic power.

… And then, check out the disturbingly placid photo from Purple Bamboo Park, one of the other three protest zones.  I guess the man is protesting the fact the woman isn’t sharing the map?

(image: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times. 2008. Beijing)

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