Olympics-China Media Watch: The spectacular

Images steal the day. Web sites around China were live-streaming the opening ceremony this evening (even as NBC insisted on broadcasting endless tips on Chinese manners, saving the Big Show for American prime time). Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily re-launched their sites to showcase photos. On 8/8/08 at 8 p.m., images beamed across the world of the magnificent firework display, a parade of national delegations (with corresponding news briefs: Brazilian delegation enters, Kenyan delegation enters, Japanese delegation enters, etc.), and Hu Jintao walking side by side into the festival with George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, Xinhua hinted at the obstacles laid down by foreign nations before China’s arrival at this moment. Today, all was forgiven. “You and me” was the theme of the ceremony. A Xinhua commentary thanked the world for giving China this chance.

For the period of the opening ceremony and a little longer, the major national Web sites appeared to have no news of anything that happened outside the pyrotechnic Bird’s Nest. No mention was made of a flight headed to Chongqing, China, that was sent back to its origin in Japan after a bomb threat, or a Uighur man who lit himself on fire in front of the Chinese Embassy in Turkey to protest the Olympics, or the detention for a few hours of the White House press corps plane at the Beijing airport.

Local papers had a little more news. Beijing News reported that the IOC has sanctioned Korean SBS television journalists for sneaking out footage of the opening ceremony’s dress rehearsal; they were not permitted to bring their cameras into the real opening ceremony. And police in Zhengzhou have arrested a prankster who distributed Internet rumors of a bomb on public transportation.

The next weeks will tell whether China’s international news coverage will, like People’s Daily today, follow the precedent of previous Games and show the soft-edged “Olympic inspiration” stories that audiences have come to expect. (I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the triumph-over-adversity plotline. Who is the next Mary Lou Retton?) 

Or will they keep up the reporting on politics, social issues, and the environment that these particular Games seem to have inspired?