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This blog wishes it be known that the opinions presented herein are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not represent the feelings, opinions, ideas, or conclusions of any affiliated organization or group. Additionally, the author has chosen to keep the blog confidential during the Olympic Games 2008, as the reaction of the PRC towards foreign opinion remains ungauged. Thanks for reading.
Beijingfuturesdreams, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

August -- The Futures Present Opinion: Passing the Torch

While the Beijing Olympics 2008 come to an end, the world is reminded that the Olympic tradition will continue in four years time in London, England. Though positive and negative commentary on the Beijing Games will continue to issue forth from analysts, journalists, and experts, many organizers and committees have already moved their focus to the upcoming games in the crown jewel of the once world encompassing British Empire.

The closing ceremonies, held in Beijing's "Bird's Nest" on August 23rd, dedicated part of the performance to the necessary passing of the torch to the hosting city, and in this time the world was given a myriad of images demonstrative of the ideas that will go into the design of the 2012 London Games. By employing a critical eye that directs our attention to a longer time frame, and broad scope of historic, and futures-oriented trends we may uncover some additional meaning to this brief exposure to Images from 2012.

The most expressive moment of the "London Games" portion of the show was not a double-decker bus transforming into a performance stage for Jimmy Page and David Beckham to do what they do best, but rather the extensive use of the symbolic "boarding of the bus."

While the act of getting on the bus has been used to symbolise a number of things in Western culture, it draws much of its symbolism from the idea that people collectively decide to allow another entity to take responsibility for their safety in transport. Similar to the train, the bus has become a symbol for collective transference of trust into the person at the controls of the mass-transit system. This imagery is often employed to represent the transference of trust in other ways: into a organizational specific charter, a political identity, or even a consumer mindset. The bus, and boarding thereof, has proven symbolically important for decades, and thus we are forced to pay attention to its use in the "passing of the torch."

As the video montage that played for the live audience (both at the Bird's Nest, and those viewing the CCTV broadcast), we follow a bus as it weaves through a pop-graphic 3D environment composed of London's iconography. The Clock Tower, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and the British Museum are among the many notable pictures that paint the virtual landscape. Couple with this are various modes that encompass London culture from cab drivers and punk rockers to bankers, soldiers, and artists.

As the audience's attention is shifted from this virtual landscape to the live-action performers in the Bird's Nest, we see a modern double-decker bus touring the covered track. As the double-decker approaches the "bus stop" the audience is presented with a picture of those in queue for the bus ride: umbrella toting, newspaper reading, and hip-hop dancing Londoners dressed to represent the racial and economic diversity that exists in the modern city. As the bus pulls in, and the mad dash for the door begins we have the crux of the performance, and the most-telling futures image of the evening. The Londoners are repelled from the door to reveal a young Indian girl. we are confronted with a very interesting Image, likely fraught with intentional symbolism. India, comprised of some of the oldest cultures of human history, was once a British Colony, regained its governance and sovereignty in 1947 at the end of the British Raj. These nations' relationship has encompassed trade, territorial claims, cultural bias and discrimination, bi-lateral beneficial cultural exposure, and a significant emigration of peoples, knowledge, and technology from both countries. Many view India as an economic force that will become more influential than even China, as a booming population, and stabilizing national government may preclude a massive economic expansion.

The viewer, aware of some of these histories and expectations, must therefore examine the following gestures of the Indian-girl character with the utmost of scrutiny.

The girl, exits the bus, and approaches a young girl of Chinese nationality who is holding a football (soccer ball). The two exchange smiles and the football to a roaring crowd response. After the exchange the young Indian walks across the backs of the queued Londoners en route to re-boarding the bus. A well choreographed segment of the show, to be sure, but to what extent this points towards Britain's attitude toward India and the future of her vast population, we can only speculate.

However, the immediate response to the implied symbolism could be that Britain, in its bid to win back the hearts of the Indian populous is willing to have it's own hard-working, bus-taking population supplicate on behalf of the rising nation. Even if such actions were to occur in the coming decades, and the scope of historical context were to pass it off as a case of "just desserts," it is likely that the backs walked over will not feel the same sentiment.

Rather than dwell on this particular image presented by the future host of the Olympic Games, let's turn our focus to another holding nearly as much poignancy to possible Futures. As the "torch passing" segment of the ceremony is coming to a close we see 3 tourist-clad actors mount a throwback airline boarding staircase reminiscent of many a presidential plan boarding movie clips. However, at the end of the staircase, no plane awaits these young travellers, and apparently no amount of high-wire engineering so prevalent in the rest of the ceremony was able to conjure up an escape for these young travellers.

Could this gesture be an acknowledgement of some of the current strains on the global aviation industry, as fuel prices and passenger reluctance reach new heights? While it is unlikely that all of the world's planes will be fuel-less in four years, it is possible that location, and rising costs (for travel at least) may make the 2012 Olympics more cost prohibitive for its younger fans.

As is true for most futures oriented thinking, only time will tell if these hypothetical relationships exist between Symbolic Image, and lived reality...

As for the Olympics, the torch now resumes its global run, and returns to London, after a century of absence. Beijing, post-Olympic fervor, has become a hive of speculation, both domestically and internationally, even while the Para-lympics wait to begin.

Questions surrounding Beijing, China, and broader Futures at stake will be listed, addressed, and speculated upon in September...

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