Bye bye, Beijing

Well, the last two weeks or so have been a sporting spectacular as over two hundred countries competed in the Olympic Games in Beijing.  What an opportunity for countries to learn a little bit about each other, and build cross-border relationships under the uniting forces of sportsmanship and human achievement.

China has remained somewhat of a mystery to many countries in the west, and when its doors were finally opened to the world, it was with a lot of fanfare, fireworks, and possibly the best opening and closing ceremonies anyone has ever seen.

In a country where you’re unsure of the customs, the language, and the culture, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution.  The New Zealand delegation were even issued handbooks which outlined some of the big dos and don’ts, introduced some basic language, and covered some of the cultural history and common customs.  At the other end of the spectrum, members of the Spanish basketball and tennis teams were photographed making ‘slitty-eyed’ gestures before their departure for Beijing.  According to The Guardian, no offence was intended by the athletes, and “No one involved in the advert [featuring the men’s basketball team] appears to have considered it inappropriate nor contemplated the manner in which it could be interpreted in China and elsewhere.”

It still boggles the mind that the people involved in the Spanish publicity shots didn’t even consider that they might possibly insult their host country, especially when Spain has been under fire for incidents of racial abuse targeting footballers Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, as well as Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.

As we’ve discussed before, it may just be best to keep your mind open, a smile on your face, and your hands in your pockets.

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