Olympics: For Peace, or for Safety?

Since I live really close to Yong He Gong (the Lama temple in Beijing), I went to go watch the men’s cycling road race on Saturday, and it was kinda frustrating to be cheering by the side of the road.

There was a fence along the entire part of the route that was publicly accessible, and between the fence and the audience had to be about a meter of space that was filled, literally shoulder-to-shoulder, with police, PLA members, and Olympic security volunteers.

The bigger problem was, that like everybody who is given a little bit of power, each new security-related person who arrived between me and the fence, wanted a wider and wider space (so as to express their power position?). So even though originally the space between the audience and the fence was perhaps 25 cm, it widened to 40 cm, 60 cm and finally nearly a meter as different levels of security arrived.

Secure Olympics - are those spectators amongst your security staff?

Secure Olympics - are those spectators amongst your security staff?

And just imagine how big their eyes got when I pulled out my Canadian flag to wave for 20 seconds as the peloton passed by. The volunteer in front of me acted as though she’d never seen the flag of another country before, and had to ask the volunteers beside me if I was allowed to hold it up.  After confirming that it was, in fact, a Canadian flag, she relaxed and joked around with me, as long as I didn’t try to push into her territory.

These frustrations were later noted in the Globe and Mail Olympics blog, saying:

When informed on Sunday about the frustrated spectators amid apparent security overkill, Beijing organizers could only shrug.

“I am sorry to hear that,” spokesman Wang Wei said, “Of course, I understand their disappointment. I will look into this situation and give you an answer tomorrow.”

I didn’t care THAT much, but it was scary to feel how much security was there, and annoying to realize that each and every one of those people was on their own little power trip.


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