is volcanic," says Dahai, the one-word-named president of Naha
International Sports Management Co. "And the pace of change is so intense.
It's impossible to adapt to. You can't control it."
shift of values--from six to eight, from stability to ambition and even
greed--has produced not only a growing and prosperous middle class but also
victims. A recent study by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and
Evictions (whose findings were dismissed by the Chinese foreign ministry as
"groundless") stated that 1.25�million people had been displaced
from their homes by the eight-year urban renewal makeover that is transforming
Beijing in advance of the Olympics.
When you visit
Ganjing Hutong, one of the historic alleyway neighborhoods in south Beijing,
only a third of the residents remain, and buildings have already been leveled
to make way for an upscale development. The government is offering the evicted
only about a third of their homes' value; soon they will be forced to move out
of the city, away from the place they've lived all their lives. "We don't
know what to do," says one woman.
notice is tacked to an outside bulletin board, citing the project's importance
in beautifying the area in time for next summer's Games. Next to it, written in
chalk on a blackboard, is a message in Chinese: WELCOME THE OLYMPICS. IMPROVE
MANNERS. FOSTER NEW ATTITUDES: I CONTRIBUTE. I ENJOY.
My lucky number
is seven," says two-time Olympic diving champion Tian Liang.
That this is the
figure he has chosen for himself is only appropriate: Tian tried to navigate
the terrain between the old and new eras, to cash in after the 2004 Games with
a slew of endorsements and found himself in no-man's land.
Intending to seal
his legacy with a triumph in Beijing, the 27-year-old onetime Diving Prince was
instead kicked off the national team in 2005 for indulging in what a Chinese
sports official termed "too many commercial and social activities."
After two years of seeing his comeback rebuffed by diving authorities, Tian
retired in March. In China seven is an ambiguous figure that symbolizes, among
other things, ghostliness. The old saw--athletes die twice--applies, but even
Tian is unsure how to characterize the death of his career.
"It's hard to
say whether it was murder or suicide," he says. "But in the end, in
order to push the system forward, I felt like I should commit suicide. It was
the best way. There will be many cases like this in the future; many athletes
will have conflicts with the system. I [retired] so people will see
athletes, such as Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, have gotten rich without
retribution, of course. And still others, such as Tian's former diving teammate
and ex-girlfriend Guo Jingjing, ran afoul of the regime for the same reasons as
Tian yet remain cogs in the Big Red Machine. But unlike Tian, the 25-year-old
Guo--a 10-time world and Olympic champion and potentially her country's biggest
female star at next year's Games--was quick to bow to the system's primacy in
January 2005 and take part in the classic Communist humiliation known as
self-criticism. "She even apologized on CCTV," the state-run TV
network, says Zhou Jihong, team leader of the national diving program.
Tian insists that
the diving federation never posted any rule regarding a limit on commercial
activities. He never, he says, received so much as a warning that he was
treading on dangerous ground. Zhou denies this, saying the team's rules are
clear and that Tian is "making excuses."