There is one topic these days that can get most everyone talking: this year's summer Olympics. The Olympics are arguably the most exciting of athletic competitions throughout the world; and as if that fact alone wasn't enough to impress you already, Beijing's opening ceremonies last week have viewers around the world still "ooh"ing and "aah"ing today just thinking about them. China's Olympic committee pulled out all the stops. Everything had to be perfect, right down to the cuteness of the singer. And who can blame them? After all, the Olympics are way more than a collection of astounding athletic contests - they also function as yet another marketing campaign theme.
Now I'm not talking about all of the commercial bits with Olympians past and present. I'm not talking about the corporate sponsorships or that ridiculous McDonald's commercial comparing a chicken sandwich to Olympic gold(apologies for the low video quality). I'm talking about every country that is now competing for their spot in the world spotlight, with China at the center.* Athletes at the Olympic games are not merely there as themselves. Say as much as you want about the "Olympic spirit" and uniting the world - it doesn't change the fact that everyone's still competing for number one. But more to the point, every nation's top concern is how they themselves are represented through their athletes. Or at least, it really ought to be.
Some teams don't really seem to "get" it, though. By "some teams," I of course mean the Spanish basketball team. I'm not the biggest fan of censoring every little thing in the name of political correctness, either, but seriously? Guys? This picture?
At this point, it's not even about whether or not it was offensive. Obviously it would be seen as offensive. And of course Team Spain is denying that they meant any offense - but I'm not even going to debate that! I am distressed because I actually believe that Team Spain did not think it would offend. I am distressed by the sheer ignorance - from a marketing standpoint - implied by the fact that Team Spain didn't realize this ad would be so poorly received. As Thomas Friedman writes, the world is flat. We are increasingly global, and you can't afford to send such racially insensitive images as this out to the public, especially when they concern something as huge and up to public scrutiny the world over as the Olympics.
*No pun intended for those who understand the literal translation of "中国"