Olympics: ‘Clear success’ (fakery aside)

It’s sort of fun to catch the book and movie spin-meisters who trumpet seemingly favorable blurbs artfully extracted from otherwise bad or mixed reviews. They baldly turn criticism into praise as they try to get you to buy that movie ticket or paperback. But maybe it’s more of a problem when you see a government do it.

Thanks to a friend in the United States for sending me this one. She’s a close watcher of how governments control messages and images during times of stress, and these Games have certainly put a stress on China’s relations with the international media. Here’s what she passed on to me:

As the international media’s relations with China and the IOC began to really sour last week, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua ran a story with a Washington dateline and headlined U.S. media: Beijing Olympics a “clear success.” The opening paragraph: “A week into the Beijing Olympic Games, athletes brim with praise for the Olympics venues, and the Games are seen as a ‘clear success,’ the McClatchy newspapers reported Friday.”  The article continued on in the same upbeat vein, citing other sources, too.

For a reality check, read the full McClatchy story (and headline): “With a bit of blue sky and fakery, China sees games as clear success so far. Tim Johnson included praise and criticism in his analysis. Here is his lead. You decide where reality rests:

BEIJING–A week into the Summer Games, athletes brim with praise for the Olympics venues, rain has mercifully cleared the skies of smog and China beams at its success even as it deflects charges of “phony spectators” and other fakery at the games.

Athletes at marquee Olympic events like swimming, basketball and track and field have played to arenas full of enthusiastic fans, but rows of forlorn empty seats look down at a surprising number of venues, including tennis and field hockey.