This follows up the recent item saying that people who are in a huff about America-centrism in NBC's coverage should put things in perspective. (I've heard from many people about beach volleyball-centrism in NBC's coverage too. Agnostic on that.)
1) A Slate item, by June Shih, whose headline makes the point: "You think NBC is bad? You haven't seen CCTV." CCTV is of course China Central TV.
If you're going to rely on CCTV to bring you your Olympics, you've got to care about the Chinese teams. ...
Instead of [NBC's] soft-focus profiles, what you get from CCTV is raw, one-sided footage. Predictably, the cameras were trained exclusively on the Chinese gymnasts. During the early rotations, when the Chinese unexpectedly found themselves in fifth place, CCTV broadcast little or no footage of the teams in first, second, third, and fourth. ....It was a reminder that, at the end of the day, [CCTV] is still a large cog in a giant propaganda machine. NBC is patriotic because patriotism sells; CCTV is patriotic because patriotism is the law.
Shih, like me, is positive about these Olympics, many of the Chinese athletes, One World One Dream, the Fuwa, and all the rest. But she's describing the same thing I see.
2) From "Traveling Lavalles," by an American family now in Shanghai, a completely true point about varying national conceptions of "success" at the games:
Medals: Only gold count! Contrary to internal propaganda regarding the country not being in a quest for gold, that is all that is being counted.... They want the most gold medals - nothing else matters. Locals are frustrated that Yahoo! ranks country performance based on total medals [instead of gold medals]...That would make Michael Phelps something like number 4 as a country as of right now.
It's interesting to look at the official Beijing Olympics medal-count site, which like all other media I've seen in China ranks countries' performance according to how many gold medals they have won. Right at this moment, it shows China as #1 with 22 golds, vs 14 for the runner up, the United States. Then look at the main US Olympic Committee/NBC medal-count site, which as of right now shows the US as #1 with 43 total medals, vs 36 for #2 China. We're all above average!
This is kind of an electoral college/popular vote issue. I don't know how it will shake out when all the events are done, but right now the gold supremacy is another cause for good national feelings in China.
UPDATE: More on the medal-count wars here.