I’ve been meaning for some time to say something about last weeks announcement of the Beijing 2008 Olympics’ mascots. Now, I’ve learned two things about the Olympic Games since coming to China. A) The Games coming here is a VERY BIG DEAL to pretty much the ENTIRE population of China. In fact, I would place renmenbi on the fact that if you went to the most isolated area of Xinjiang and found some Uyger sheep herder that had no radio and had never heard of no confangled TV – he’d still swell with pride with mention of the 2008 Summer Olympics. “Best part of being an autonomous region in the great wonder that is China,” he might exclaim (but probably not).
Everywhere are signs advertising the event (which when I arrived was still nearly four years away); most companies have spent sleepless nights thinking of ways to slip it into their advertising. Hell, Dalian, a city a ways away from Beijing, even has a square in tribute to it. Can you imagine Regina building a square for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver?
Dalian’s Olympic Square (å¥¥æž—åŒ¹å…‹å¹¿åœº)
|This brings me to part B) No one knows there are Winter Olympics! When I ask people where the next Olympics are being held, they invariably say, “Beijing, dummy.” I’ve put it as a question in every Jeopardy game I’ve played with my classes, and no one has yet to get it right. When they should “Beijing!” and I say no, I incessantly get confused looks. Not once has anyone said Italy. (It’s Torino, Italy, by the way).
I thought perhaps it was just 2008 Blindness amongst the Chinese that didn’t allow them to see Olympics other than those happing in the grand year of äºŒ00å…«. So I tested the question on some of the foreign teachers at my school. They didn’t know either. Are we Canadians the only ones interested in the Winter Olympics? I mean, I guess it makes sense, I imagine we bring home more golds with the winter sports, but hell – Britian doesn’t bring home golds in either, why don’t the English know?
So… I think it’s time we start a campaign explaining that the Winter Olympics are by far the cooler of the two. Who’s with me?
And going full-circle, I come back to my original topic. Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni. The latest craze in Olympic marketing; The five Olympic Mascots are positioned to be the biggest extravaganzas since Furbies. Well, at least in China. Four of the charactures represent significant Chinese animals, while the fifth embodies the Olympic torch. The creativity doesn’t stop there – they’re names (when halved and spoken) are ‘Bei Jing Huan Ling Ni – Bei Jing Welcomes You.’
Personally, I dig the little guys – but it’s only been a week, and I don’t watch a lot (if any) Chinese TV. I’m sure that it wont be long before the dolls are in every market, the posters are at every bus stop, the radio spots, the shopping mall appearances, the dance routine on the Spring Festival TV Special, etc. ad nauseam.
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