The Sniper's Guide to the Bird's Nest
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SPRINGTIME 1993 in Beijing and an old man and his friend pedal across the city's most famous square, pursued by cameramen. Tonight the sequence will be screened on every TV in China. Four years after the slaughter of young protesters, the Guardian of All Things Moral is in town creating happy new images and expunging that other picture - the one that brought the world to tears - of the student who stood alone, defying the tanks.
The state-controlled media will ram the message home. The Olympic movement’s leader is here to tell us, the outside world doesn't care any more about the bloodshed, the jailings.
His bicycling companion is Chen Xitong, mayor of Beijing, leader of the city's bid for the 2000 Games, who signed the order inviting the army to town to massacre the young demonstrators. That last bit wasn’t in his curriculum vitae circulated to Olympic Committee members at their annual convention in Birmingham in 1991 when Chen was honoured with an Olympic Order. The citation read out by Olympic president Juan Antonio Samaranch said Chen was ‘an ardent defender of sport for youth.’
Chen and his team arrived in Monaco in September 1993 for the vote. On the sidewalk were non-violent Tibetan demonstrators. Chen’s security squad, instinctively, gave them a beating. Sydney won. Samaranch wouldn’t give up on his friends and as his last act before retiring in 2001, forced the games to Beijing.
‘WE WILL NEVER give in to violence,’ says the busiest member of the Olympic Committee, Ms Gunilla Lindberg from Sweden. Ms Lindberg, recruited in 1996 and now the senior of four vice-presidents, is one of only 15 women among the 110 members, although not one of the three princesses.
The once all-male Committee survived the 1960s and 1970s ignoring the explosion of gender equality. But once their new, extravagant lifestyle depended on sponsor dollars, females were a necessity. The Committee’s image must be updated - Coca-Cola sold huge amounts of product to women in supermarkets - and President Samaranch had to seek out the right kind. He found Flor Isava Fonseca in 1981 enjoying equestrian pursuits at the Shangri-La Country Club on the outskirts of Caracas. Fifteen years later, only seven more had been inducted. This was, Flor Isava explained, ‘in spite of the known efforts of president Samaranch to motivate women in sport administration.’ I’ve not heard her endorsing Hugo Chavez.
Watching Gunilla over the years I imagine her solicitous in the boardroom. ‘Tea or coffee? Chocolate biscuits or plain?’ Employed from her early twenties by Olympic sports organisations, she seems never to have worked in the wider world. Now beginning her seventh decade Gunilla sits on the Committee’s executive board and the committees for press, Olympic programme, Olympic solidarity and those organising upcoming events in Vancouver, London and Sochi. She embodies what they call the Olympic Ideal.
According to the New York Times, which interviewed her after the disturbances around the sacred torch in London and Paris she, ‘likened some of the more aggressive protesters to terrorists. “These are not the friendly demonstrators for a free Tibet, but professional demonstrators, the ones who show up at G-8 conferences to be seen and fight.”’ Continued ...