China State Media's Olympic Gaffe Was 'Same Mistake Twice'

A commentary by Kay Lam
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International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announces Tokyo as the host city of the 2020 summer Olympics at a meeting in Buenos Aires, Sept. 7, 2013.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announces Tokyo as the host city of the 2020 summer Olympics at a meeting in Buenos Aires, Sept. 7, 2013.
Aleksandr Utkin/RIA Novosti

During Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan was voted top of the first round, while Istanbul and Madrid had the same number of votes, making it necessary to hold an additional elimination round [in which Madrid was defeated]. Chinese Communist Party media immediately reported in the Chinese subtext to their live broadcast that Tokyo had been eliminated, and that Istanbul had beaten Madrid in the vote.

The official Xinhua news agency then took the elimination round to mean the game was over, and immediately put out an alert saying that Istanbul had won the bid .... The Changsha Evening News had to reprint hundreds of thousands of copies because it used this erroneous report from Xinhua news agency.

So Internet users started to ask the Chinese Communist Party why, against the background of the "war on rumor and false online information," didn't the police take action against Xinhua news agency and CCTV for putting out false news?

How could the official media make such a stupid mistake? Firstly, China has been implementing a long-term brainwashing policy against the Japanese, which has penetrated deeply into public consciousness, so when they saw the additional vote [was between Istanbul and Madrid], they naturally thought that Tokyo would be out, and churned it out in an excitable frame of mind without waiting to verify the "happy news" first.

Secondly, China's media workers are drawn from a minority elite out of a large population of 1.3 billion, as well as some highly educated individuals who have served the Communist Party in its overseas organizations, giving the mistaken impression that the Chinese media is totally integrated with the rest of the world.

In reality, the fact that the propaganda agencies pursue victory for the Party means that we have been left with a bunch of puppets with no capacity for independent thought, whose foreign language skills are very poor. So they repeatedly make fools of themselves, for example by putting out a joke on a fake Twitter account about [NSA leaker Edward] Snowden as an "exclusive news report," and by reporting the U.S. moon landing as fake, causing great hilarity all round.

The official media of the Chinese Communist Party don't understand live broadcasts in foreign languages, and they didn't do their homework for the Olympic bid process. In 1993, Beijing was applying to host the 2000 Olympics, and the Chinese media mistook the first round of voting for the final result, and mistakenly reported that China had won the Olympic bid amid huge jubilation and celebration. They only realized later that the winner was Sydney. The fact that they made the same mistake twice only proves the low quality of those who work in China's state-run media.

Even more absurdly, the Party paper, Global Times, reported in 2008 that the Beijing Olympics had become "politicized," and that the West would pay the price. Five years later, it published an editorial linking Tokyo's Olympic bid to politics [questioning whether Japan's wartime history made it an appropriate country to host the Olympic Games].

Luckily, we can use the Internet to dig up old news, and compare what the Chinese media commentators were saying till they were hoarse five years ago: that sports and politics should be kept separate.

So is sport the same as politics? If we look at Communist propaganda from the late 1970s, it cries out that sport is politics.... China boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

So will sport and politics [converge again]? We shall have to wait and see.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Kay Lam is an outspoken and satirical Hong Kong-based political blogger whose Facebook account was blocked in 2012 after he criticized the territory's Beijing-backed leader C. Y. Leung.





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