In fact, the people (and government) only wants folks (and the world) to see how perfect China is.
So, when I wandered into the field hockey venue Wednesday and spotted a volunteer napping, I was discouraged from photographing it. In fact, a woman woke him up to “prevent” reality from being recorded. Guess it’s not OK to be tired in public.
It really pissed me off. Not that I missed out on a good photo, but because things here are so scripted. Everyone is so joyous – almost like being in SLC. It can get a bit old fast.
However, soon after this napping scenario, I bumped into the group of volunteers again in the hallway. They were practicing skits (like a Snow White spoof) in preparation for a group party that night. Everyone with a birthday during the Olympic Games was to be toasted and entertained.
While waiting for the party to begin, I hung out at the venue, which is about 2 km north of the Olympic Stadium. Aside from a couple photogs shooting field hockey practice, I had the place to myself. Felt nice, really nice.
I heard some celebrating and wandered into the archery stadium, where all the volunteers gathered together for a pep rally. Cheers, songs and boring speeches from long-winded officials.
After all the goodwill, I followed the volunteers to the cafeteria, making a couple boring frames. A nice woman started a conversation, inviting me to dinner. Why not? (Actually, I was starving! There aren’t any restaurants or food stands open yet.)
After digging into my food tray of really authentic Chinese food, an official cornered me, asking me why I was there. I wasn’t supposed to see this. I explained that I had been invited, but if he wanted me to leave, that I would.
Of course, that would be losing some face and perfect air of hospitality. So instead, I had a shadow watch me eat and chitchat, then exit the dining area. I promised I wouldn’t publish any photos from dinner. The woman I spoke with said she’d get into trouble if I did.
Again, China doesn’t want to show off reality. And that includes people napping, eating and living in cramped quarters in the far reaches of the Olympic Green.
That’s too much reality for the world to see.
But who doesn’t love a party? A perfectly, happy party…