中国爱林丹 (China loves Lin Dan)

8 Aug

Every day after work, the first thing I do after entering my apartment, taking off my shoes, throwing down my bags, turning on my AC and opening my computer is turn on my TV.  The Chinese chatter stays mostly tuned out on low volume, and the cable box is always tuned to one of three stations: CCTV1, CCTV5, or CCTV7.  CCTV stands for something related to China, and the 13 or so CCTV channels are all run by the government.  Some of them are quite interesting, such as the all-English, Hong Kong-based CCTV9 that you can even find in generous cable packages in the US.  But right now, CCTV1, 5 and 7 all show, non-stop, the 2012 Olympics.

Watching the Olympics in China is fascinating.  The most fascinating element of watching the best athletes in the world compete is that all of China, as a nation, watches the same three channels, and thus, gets to see the same events broadcasted.  The broadcasting is very nationalistic, as the annoucers (usually a man and a woman together) not only cheer for Chinese players only but comment in the most peculiar ways; when a Chinese competitor does well, you hear applause and praise.  When one does poorly, you hear one of two comments: “The pressure was just too much.” or “He didn’t prepare well enough.”  When another country’s competitor does well, you hear very little commentary, unless the player has made such a grave mistake that he or she is already out of the running.  For example, last night, a gymnist from somewhere else fell off the balance beam, thus earning a deduction that threw her out of the running for a medal.  Once she got back on the beam to finish her routine, you could hear the most laudable comments from the channel’s commentators.  

And, just because an event is happening, doesn’t mean that China will show it.  What China will show is determined by one major question: Is China competing?  The secondary question would be: Will China eventually compete against the winner of this match?  If the answer is yes to either, you can happily find the event aired in real time, on live TV, and, if China does well, replayed a million times, even when other events that do not display Chinese talent are happening.  What China does well is what you see here, and that means a completely different focus from what I’m used to when watching the Olympics in the US.

First of all, the national sports here are badminton and ping pong (of course, correctly referred to as table tennis internationally).  We are currently experiencing a national uproar of celebration because the world’s number two badminton player (as of a few days ago) and national hunk and all-around superstar, Lin Dan, won the men’s singles badminton gold medal after Malaysia’s worldwide champion lost in a very close match to him.  Lin Dan’s very visible tattoo of a Christian cross stood out like a sore thumb, yet no one seemed to care much when he ripped off his shirt and threw it to the crowd after making that final match point.

I’m also developing an appreciation for ping pong, badminton and volleyball, which are much more avidly played and followed here.  There’s simply so much of it airing here; both the women’s gold and silver medalists and the men’s gold and silver medalists in ping pong were Chinese players.  This country simply dominates that sport.  But, if China isn’t really involved, you won’t really see it here.  I’m lucky that Americans put up such fierce competition against the Chinese; that means I get to see quite a few of my fellow countrymen competing.  Once China is out of a sporting event, though, I have to say goodbye to continuing to follow any other team and get ready to see more replays of events in which China DID do espcially well.

For that reason, a funny thing happened last night.  I was watching a volleyball match between China and Japan last night with a friend, and he asked me, “What are you rooting for?”  Having developed a slight affinity for the Japan team for no discernable reason, I said, “Japan. And you?”  “Definitely China. There’s simply no other option. I want to continue watching this sport.”

Alas, Japan won.  Goodbye volleyball.  I’ll be reading the news to see how that one pans out.

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