Thursday, December 10, 2009

The East Is Red

By Chip Tsao | published Dec 10, 2009

Conform, repeat, and be dull? Don’t blame those who find the East Asian Games nothing more than a big yawn. Firecrackers display. Strobe lights and laser beams. Dancers, drummers and Cantopop stars. The official launch ceremony was highlighted with the same old rheumatic orgy of commotion that emerges seasonally whenever the Hong Kong SAR is itching to make a mountain out of a molehill to stress a point of self-importance, be it Chinese New Year, July 1, National Day or Mao’s birthday.

I am not saying that watching a ping pong game in Asia’s World City between two hopping athletes, one from Macau and the other from North Korea, is less exciting than taking a quick nap on the MTR beside a middle-aged Chinese man clipping his fingernails. Nor do I think, perish the politically incorrect thought, that watching a wrestling match between Mongolia and Vietnam would make my Asian heart swell with more excitement than it would while I was shouting at the TV during a Man U and Liverpool game as a Coca-Cola-indoctrinated global citizen. But I do confess that when I saw Victoria Harbour painted in a gaudy neon tapestry of grotesque reds, I couldn’t help but think it was a second-rate copy of the French who lit up the Eiffel Tower in Paris with the same colors to mark a “Sino-French Cultural Year” not too long ago. When the traditional Chinese junks, also lit up in reds, started sailing past in a parade on the sea, I started to hear the melody of “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” playing in my mind. I suddenly wished William Holden, the late Hollywood movie star who was rumored to have had a good time with his Wan Chai bargirls while filming in the colony during the 50s, were still with us.

And I also found it a bit confusing upon learning that, contrary to my geographic knowledge gleaned from my primary school years, Guam is in the “East Asia” region rather than being an American protectorate in Oceania—perhaps during the next games, they can include French Polynesia and Hawaii? On second thought, the Guamanian athletes have added much weight to the games because they represent the second participant where US troops are stationed, the other being South Korea. The fact that a stars-and-stripes flag is flying somewhere not too far away does help ease some of the worries that the grand tournament is, as some cynics grumble, little more than a case of birds of a feather flocking together.

This is reconfirmed by the immaculate American English accent of Hong Kong’s gold-medal winning BMX cyclist, Stephen Wong, as he talks to local reporters (local as I conveniently presume, but maybe with others from Reuters, AFP, CNN, BBC, etc., I can only hope). I’m glad that Wong beat his Chinese rival who came in third because his name was, shhh... God forbid just by unfortunate coincidence, Zhao Ziyang.

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