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Meet the behind-the-scenes workers, and watch China celebrate

Ben, Auntie, her coworker LiuLiu and Ben's friend Bjorn at dinner in Beijing
Ben, Auntie, her co-worker LiuLiu and Ben’s friend Bjorn have dinner in Beijing.

BEIJING — Here’s are two more entries from our students bloggers at the Olympics:

Ben Rasmus: ‘Old hundred names’ and the Olympics

It’s easy to get caught up in the new gloss and glitz of Beijing. In a word, it’s fantastic. World-class architecture and infrastructure has sprung up virtually overnight. The capital is currently in the process of throwing a superb coming-out party for China. The games have occurred thus far without a major glitch.

However, beneath all of the Beijing glamour, the self-described laobaixing, or old hundred names, can’t wait for the Olympics to finish and for the visitors to return home. The laobaixing are the ones who have physically made Beijing appear in all its gleaming glory on TV, but don’t get any of the credit: the migrant construction worker, the street sweeper or, in our case, a simple cook.

I actually don’t know her real name. She introduced herself in Chinese as “Auntie,” a common title in China, so I just call her “Auntie.” I met Auntie at the apartment where I’m living. She cooks for the staff and patrons of an Internet café down the street that apparently doesn’t have a kitchen. Therefore, the Internet café bought a nearby apartment for the kitchen and rents out the other two bedrooms — a head-scratcher of a situation that makes perfect sense in China.

Auntie is delighted that I am here for the Games and am having a grand time, but when I press her about watching any of the events, she’s disinterested. Although she always knows exactly how many more gold medals China has than the United States. Auntie can’t afford to attend any of the Olympic events, but she has noticed the rise in food prices the event has caused, such as rice and cooking oil, while her salary remains the same.

Earlier this week, I returned frustrated from the train station after finding out the train to the Great Wall was closed, effectively cutting off all spectators from both the men’s and women’s cycling road race. Auntie understood completely.

“It’s Olympics time, we Beijingers have been putting up with such trivial Olympic ordinances for a long time,” Auntie said. “I can’t wait for the Games to be over.”

For Auntie and other laobaixing, the Beijing Olympics isn’t so much a coming-out party as a month-long inconvenience.

Benjamin Rasmus, 24, originally from Edina, majored in Chinese studies and communication at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. Benjamin moved to Beijing in 2006 where he lived for one year studying Chinese and teaching English. He is now back in Beijing to take part in the Olympic action. He can be reached at rasmusbf@gmail.com.

Elizabeth Tuttle
Elizabeth Tuttle

Elizabeth Tuttle: It’s China’s time to celebrate

One night last week, I stood in the press section of the Olympic Tennis venue listening to the constant roaring cheer of “Zhong guo jia you,” as Li Na of China fought a significant and extensive battle against the American, Venus Williams.

With so much support on the Chinese side, I could see Venus’ confidence drop with each serve and each hit.  I wanted so badly to cheer for my country to add my voice to the few Americans in the stands, but as a journalist, I am not even allowed to clap for the players (even if I clap for both sides).

But never have I seen such a presence in a stadium as I did that night. The Chinese people all cheer for China, and they all cheer as one:  “Zhong guo jia you!” (Give it oil; go, China!) The noise is heard in the streets, at the venues; all someone has to do is say, “Zhong guo”   and a hundred voices respond, “Jia you!”  It reminds me of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie … oi, oi ,oi,” but with the fresh passion of a proud new host country trying to create an event no one will forget.

On the night of the Opening Ceremonies, I walked around the Bird’s Nest. Blockades kept the average person from entering the streets surrounding the stadium, but none of the Chinese fans seemed to mind. There may have been a show unlike any other inside the national stadium, but the real party was there in the street.  They pressed up against the blockade in great numbers with their faces painted, bandannas of their flag around their head and shouting with the biggest smiles on their faces, “Zhong guo jia you!”  All of this built-up excitement at being hosts, excitement of having the world see them and excitement of being a part of something big. 

The police officers stood back and watched as the Chinese crowd packed tighter against the blockade, threatening to break it as they jumped and cheered. It is China’s celebration, it is China’s time.

This Chinese force cheered Li Na to win match point. The Chinese people are one voice and one force cheering their athletes on and cheering for their country to make the right impression on the world.

Give it oil; go, China — “Zhong guo jia you!”

Elizabeth Tuttle, 20, of Minnetonka, is a reporter for the official Beijing Olympic News Service.  Tuttle is a journalism and international studies major in her senior year at the University of Iowa.  She covered Olympic test events for the Beijing Olympic News Service in October and is currently working on a documentary about China and the Olympics. Tuttle can be reached at elizabeth-tuttle@uiowa.edu.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Micah Sittig on 08/18/2008 - 07:11 pm.

    > but as a journalist, I am not even allowed to
    > clap for the players (even if I clap for both
    > sides)

    Is that a real rule? If so, somebody forgot to tell the CCTV hosts…

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