Run up to the Beijing Olympics

Written by Travel

Posted from: Beijing

When I arrived in Beijing, there were two, and only two, topics on everyone’s tongue. First was the centenary of the late Deng Xiao Ping’s birth, and the second is the 2008 Olympics, scheduled to be held here.

Deng Xiao Ping, for the uninitiated, is the post-Maoist CCP chairman accredited with initiating the reforms that are speeding China’s economy into the modern age and which resulted in a commercial boom, though, not to be blasphemous or anything, at that point the economy didn’t particularly have any place to go but up. He is also widely celebrated for his “one country, two systems” policy that helped smooth the 1997 Hong Kong handover, and for not getting pissed off at people for making his bread too salty.

In preparation for the days of non-stop glorification and wistful black and white slideshows of Chairman Deng, a member of the proletariat in his youth and these days of the Babaoshan cemetery, TV stations issued a general call for people who had a) close dealings with the man during his life and b) anecdotes or nice things to say about him.

They came up with a cook from his private rail car, who said how grateful she’d been when Deng XiaoPing hadn’t beheaded her for almost making his bread too salty. “We added twice the proper amount of salt to the first batch,” she said, shaking visibly. “It was a disaster. But then we decided to make a second batch with no salt, and mix the two. It worked out fine, and when Chairman Deng tasted it, he just chuckled.

“Later, we asked – through an intermediary of course – to have our picture taken with him. He didn’t get mad at that either.”

Others told how Chairman Deng had greeted them at that door though he was sick, had remembered their name at their second meeting, and even used the potty on his own.

But that’s all history now. The 2008 Olympics have readily taken up the room left over by the Deng-commemoration glut, and it’s become impossible to get in a cab, order a meal or register for school without the topic being randomly raised.

“I’ll have the grilled mushrooms, please.” “Very well. Did you know there will be grilled mushroom vendors at the Olympics?”

You think I jest, and maybe I exaggerate a little, but the hype really is that pervasive. And like any good Chinese resident, I think Beijing will host an excellent Olympics. What I am wondering, and here’s a subject I don’t see any of the major media outlets addressing, is how the influx of China-virgins in the form of Olympic athletes and spectators, are going to deal with the snot.

Yeah, I said snot.

This is one of those things I conveniently forgot when I was reminiscing about China from sweltering Thailand, or longing for some traditional mooncake from bereft LA. Snot is a non-issue here. Ramming a finger up one’s nose in plain sight is less of a taboo and more of a national past-time. The hawking and spitting, while mild in comparison with rural areas due to municipal laws, still transforms the city into a veritable airport of gobules. And my personal favorite is still having a heyday: plugging a nostril and blowing the other onto the pavement by expelling air as sharply as possible.

I’m thinking it may be a smart move, not to mention a giant step toward international tolerance, for the Olympic Committee to legitimize the practice in the form of an Olympic event. The women’s 10-meter hawk.

…or not.