Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chinese Olympic Mascots, Money, and Pollution

Senior Chinese officials unveiled the "Five Friendlies" this past Friday, mascots for the Beijing Olympics to be held in 2008. The unveiling of the stylized panda, swallow, Tibetan antelope, carp, and olympic flame took place in an elaborately staged event at a Beijing sports arena.

Celebrity actor/filmmaker Jackie Chan made a surprise appearance at the gala, and even claimed later that he had guessed the identities of 2 of the 5 - the panda and the Tibetan antelope - on a bet. Tsk tsk Mr. Chan.
The Clog Almanac wagers that betting isn't a friendly or sanctioned olympic activity.

The marketing blitz for the Five Friendlies includes postage stamps and over 300 other licensed products. Sales of these items began yesterday and are expected to produce hundreds of millions $US. The Beijing games are estimated to cost around 38 billion $US.
The Clog Almanac wonders if the mascots are more about money, and the marketing of China and Chinese patriotism than they are about the spirit of the games.

A promise to clean up the dismally unhealthy air pollution in Beijing was part of China's bid for the 2008 games. So far the promise is unfulfilled. As the 1000-day clock until the games ticks down, air pollution in Beijing is getting worse as coal-fired plants ramp up for the winter, and as an additional 1000 cars per day flood the streets of the capital. That's 1,000,000 more cars in Beijing by the time the Olympics begin.

The Clog Almanac has two bothersome questions about the Tibetan antelope mascot:
Did anyone ask the Tibetans beforehand if their antelope could be co-opted by the Chinese for the Beijing games? How much Olympic licensing money will Tibet see in the end?

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