The Torino Games hosted 2, athletes in 84 events at 15 competition sites; the Beijing Games are expected to host 10, athletes in events at 39 competition sites Lenovo The technological infrastructure demands of the Olympic Games, daunting in and of themselves, will be tested in front of a much larger global audience than in the Winter Games.
Whereas only 80 nations participated in Torino, nations are expected to participate in Beijing, and the number of accredited journalists is expected to double, from 10, in Torino to 20, in Beijing Lenovo Like other multinational corporations, Lenovo must pursue dual strategies. Within China, and its huge market, the strategy is quite different. The company must touch a personal nerve, making its success relate to the ambition of individuals who see themselves as part of a collective and advancing social whole.
Domestic promotional activities seek to extend brand awareness from technologically advanced cosmopolitan cities such as Beijing and Shanghai to the rest of China. In these road shows the nation-state legitimizes Lenovo just as Lenovo legitimizes the nation-state. In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, Lenovo is attempting to present itself as both a Chinese company and as a global company. The two categories are not mutually exclusive. If Lenovo, the global company with Chinese roots and an American head office, is the most prominent international public face, then the Created in China narrative loses much of its impact.
In fact, one could argue that this version of Lenovo would conform more to the Made in China narrative where China is the support mechanism for the innovations that take place in the American head office. If, on the other hand, Lenovo, the Chinese company with global aspirations and global offices, is the most prominent international public face, then the Created in China narrative is strengthened as Chinese ingenuity and quality is shown to have created a global demand that must be met by the construction of multinational bases of operation.
The unveiling of this torch—an aluminum torch resembling a scroll of paper—garnered international media attention, and suggests that Lenovo intends to package itself for international audiences at least partly as a Chinese company. While the outside of the torch was designed by Lenovo, the internal flame system was designed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Group. To scale the mountain successfully, the torch will have to withstand low air temperatures, high wind, and low air pressure Lei The torch nicely represents a triad of the techno-narrative simultaneously symbolizing the historical inventiveness of China through the scroll design, the current inventiveness of China through the Lenovo-created design, and the future inventiveness of China through the unprecedented burning mechanism.
Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China
The Lenovo-spearheaded Created in China narrative is ultimately a fragile narrative that is dependent not only on the technology that Lenovo manufactures, but also on the policies that the Chinese government pursues. In the spring and summer of , concerns about Chinese quality control in products ranging from pet food to toothpaste and toys dominated international media coverage of China. China is one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets in the world.
Currently, there are more than million mobile phone users in China, and this number is increasing by 5 million users a month Bremner ; Chandler The largest mobile phone provider is China Mobile, which is controlled by the Ministry of Information Industry.
But in mid, with testing of platforms and standards still under way—and no clear end in sight—the narrative implications have changed: Will China be able to fulfill these technological aspirations and permit and achieve the infrastructure for a meaningful advance in the way people receive and experience the Olympic Games? One question, one narrative outcome, is how China deals administratively with these aspects of technological change. There is no worldwide standard platform for 3G.
China is not only competing at the Olympics for gold medals but is also competing with other technological standards for global market dominance.
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In addition, much of the core intellectual property of TD-SCDMA is owned by Chinese companies, which means that the licensing fees for China to use this standard will be significantly lower than they would be for competing standards developed outside of China Bremner As of a year before the Games, the commitment to 3G and mobile service remained an unsettled question. Meanwhile, others, including the Chinese government and BOCOG, appear to have realized that the homegrown 3G mobile platform might not be serviceable in time for the Games.
The question then became whether it was more important singly to advance the underlying China-developed technology or to demonstrate commitment to having mobile services ready. According to the ministry, mobile phone operators in China would be allowed to choose from all three technologies. First, it increases the chances that 3G services may actually be available during the Olympic Games. While the mobile services may not be as robust as originally intended, opening its 3G standards will most likely allow China to offer at least limited 3G services during the Games as promised.
Internationally, China wants to project an image of fairness in regulating the potentially highly lucrative mobile 3G market in China. Allowing the three 3G platforms not only helps to ensure technological robustness during the Olympics, but can be seen as a positive gesture from China in the information technology global marketplace.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that state-run China Mobile will most likely be the primary service provider of any 3G services during the Olympics. Once a mobile 3G platform is developed and tested, the Chinese government must decide which mobile phone carriers can provide 3G services in China. China has been reluctant to issue 3G mobile licenses to providers because of a potential major restructuring of the telecommunications industry, which would integrate landline and mobile phone services and determine which operators would receive 3G licenses in China.
However, any industry restructuring is immensely complicated, as three competing regulatory agencies must approve any changes Economist Thus, despite allowing the other international 3G standards to operate in China, by not issuing 3G licenses China continues to inhibit efforts that would allow them to offer 3G services during the Games. When visitors from around the world come to Beijing for the Olympics, they will likely rely on Chinese mobile services. If China can prove its technological superiority during the Olympics then its technological standards may be adopted elsewhere throughout the world.
In addition, mobile technologies, including 3G and mobile TV initiatives, are important to the success of the Games because mobile technology provides an additional channel through which spectators can follow the events of the Games. While modern media events were originally viewed on the television at home Dayan and Katz , digital technology increasingly displaces the home as the site of spectatorship for the Olympics and other media events. Advanced mobile technology like 3G and mobile TV encourages the watching of events from wherever the viewer may be.
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Increased accessibility to Olympic coverage may encourage continuity in viewing and contribute to viewer attachment and investment in the success of the Games. If people are no longer sitting in front of their televisions to watch the Olympics, broadcasters and Olympic media planners of the Beijing Games must develop new ways to reach an ever more mobile audience. While coverage of the Olympics through mobile technology may encourage viewership and reinforce the techno-narrative of the Games, the interactive nature of mobile technology also threatens the control of the official narratives surrounding the Beijing Games.
Advancements in camera and video on mobile phones make users not only consumers of mobile content, but producers as well. Such technological advancements open up the possibility of counternarratives by noncorporate or nonstate institutions. The new producers may have very different incentives and priorities than Chinese authorities.
And because mobile phones are highly accessible and portable, they may be able to record events and situations that were previously obscured from public scrutiny.
Information technology also opens up possibilities for different kinds of surveillance. Typically surveillance is the monitoring of those with less power by those with more power—the use of information technology by bureaucratic and state institutions to monitor the behavior of individuals.
However, Mann, Nolan, and Wellman suggest that ubiquitous information technology can allow for individuals to observe those in authority. Probably the most famous example of sousveillance in the United States is the video of the police assault on Rodney King.
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The power of the video was not that it captured the events unfolding but that it was presented back to the public and to authorities and called on them to account for their abusive tactics. More recently there have been examples of mobile devices contributing to the sousveillance of corporate and state institutions.
Because mobile devices are almost always available to large numbers of people, there are recorded events and situations in which authority figures exert highly disputed examples of power or force over those less powerful. Several nearby students caught this exchange with their camera phones and posted it to the Internet.
This resulted in a lawsuit and an investigation of campus police practices LA Times Staff The power of mobile devices to expose the behavior of authority is recognized within China as a matter of state concern. Chinese authorities have at times inhibited uses of mobile technology so as to impede the dissemination of information by average citizens. For example, on March 28, , six workers died while building an underground railway connecting Beijing to the Olympic Village.
The tunnel they were working on collapsed on top of them, and it took several days to recover the bodies of the victims. The Daily Telegraph reported:.
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The state-run construction company responsible for the work was so concerned to keep details secret it locked workers inside the construction site and confiscated their mobile phones while attempting its own rescue work. Eventually, one man who had managed to keep hold of his phone crept away and called a relative who works for the police. Beginning in global news media started to use camera phone recordings by citizens who had captured newsworthy events that the official media could or did not record. Notable examples include the London bombings in July , the coup in Thailand in September , the hanging of Saddam Hussein in December , and the Virginia Tech shootings in April The potential ubiquity of mobile phones at the Beijing Games increases opportunities for both athletes and spectators to record events and occurrences to which official press may not have access.
Already, mobile technology in conjunction with the Internet and blogs have proved a mobilizing communication tool for activists and citizens in China. For example, a text message campaign was used to raise awareness and fight the construction of a chemical factory in the seaside city of Xiamen Cody Demonstrations were held, and demonstrators sent text messages and photos about the event to bloggers throughout China who then posted them on their Web blogs.
Thus real-time accounts from the demonstrators and citizen journalists circumvented censorship by the government and could be read throughout the country. Although the mobile phone—enabled examples of sousveillance in China have only garnered minor international attention so far, mobile services are expected to be heavily promoted leading up to and during the Olympics, encouraging many athletes and tourists to have mobile phones on hand throughout the Games.
The techno-narrative surrounding the Beijing Olympics is a means through which to foster an association between China and modern technological innovations, while at the same time suggesting that such a relationship has always been there. The High-Tech theme of the Beijing Olympics, the Lenovo sponsorship, and the mobile initiatives each represent a different but complementary facet of this techno-narrative. Central to this High-Tech theme is a Created in China narrative, which can be seen in both the Lenovo and 3G examples.
In both cases, the Chinese government is involved in attempting to control the information technology preparation and branding for the Olympics as a means of protecting the potential fragility of this narrative. While the High-Tech theme of the Olympics may connote Chinese technological progressivism and innovation, the increased adoption and prevalence of advanced information technology, including mobile technology, may provide opportunities for such a narrative to be hijacked and for counternarratives to emerge.
Camera and video mobile phones provide a means of sousveillance through which everyday citizens can monitor, record, and disseminate official acts and behaviors of abuse or negligence. No doubt Western media, if their early framing is an indication, will be hungry for Olympic scandals involving the athletes, the events, or the host city and country during the Games.
Similarly, as a TOP sponsor and provider of information technology for the Games, Lenovo will be closely scrutinized as being both of China, for China, and for the world. The Chinese authorities will certainly try to control the discourse throughout the Olympic Games, in part by focusing on the High-Tech theme, but recent news coverage suggests that counternarratives can leak into the mainstream press with the help of the information technology itself. Future research should explore the successes and failures of China to use the Olympic Games as a stage on which to demonstrate its shift from an economy producing inexpensive goods to a sophisticated information economy and one where Created in China and Made in China gain respect.
By harnessing the Olympic discourse of progress, the Beijing Olympics will try to construct itself as a High-Tech Olympics. The computing services by Lenovo and the mobile services promoted for the Games contribute to this techno-narrative. The final year leading up to the Olympics emerges as a critical time for China to negotiate the tensions between internal regulatory struggles and the desire to project an international image of a technologically progressive country. Live 8 was a series of free concerts held on July 2, , in the G8 countries and South Africa to raise awareness of poverty.
Beijing Journal: A Live, Day-by-Day Account from Backstage at the 2008 Olympics
Live Earth was a series of concerts held on July 7, , around the world at least one concert was held on each of the seven continents to raise awareness of climate change. Press release, April Text Messages Giving Voice to Chinese. Washington Post, June 28, A Dayan, Daniel, and Elihu Katz. The Live Broadcasting of History.
Norwegian Journal of Geography Journal of Sport and Social Issues 27 2: By design, these raw, in-the-moment journal entries were prserved largely as written. The final journal entry is dated August 23, The resulting book was released on August Astoundingly, it became available in print while the games were still in progress. This is the first time in history that any book-length account of the Olympics has been published before the closing ceremonies.
Mark Butler is an electrical and audio engineer. He is president of Majestic Sound Productions, a company that has provided design, consulting, and engineering for music, recording, and television remote productions for the past 25 years. Butler is a seven-time Emmy award winner and a Grammy recipient. His wife Kim is a multiple Emmy award-winning audio technician.