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August 19, 2008

Chairman Wao - A LOUISVILLIAN INVADES CHINA

My love-hate relationship with the Olympics


While I’m sure all of you are six blisters into “Olympic Fever,” I must admit that I can’t wait for the games to end. I’m not a hater. I love sport. I can get passionate about a tiddlywinks competition, but remember, I’m a concert promoter and, because of the Olympics, we’ve had to put all shows on hold.

The Chinese government is hella paranoid about these games. They’ve shut down the music venues throughout the country, because rock ’n’ roll is subversive to the government’s policies. Come on! The 1960s taught us that music will never change the world. We thought it could, but it couldn’t. The biggest rock band right now: The Jonas Bros. Yeah, real threat.

I was sick of the games before they started, but I must admit, the opening ceremony was amazing. Every four years, the ceremony is the best ever, but I’d hate to be London in 2012. How will they top this — save real aliens landing center-stage, followed by a set from the actual Beatles? China is proud to have the Olympics, and I suppose it is fun to witness it all. In every store, restaurant, home, and even on the street, people are gathered around small TV sets, clinging to every event that features Chinese athletes. It is an amazing atmosphere. Just imagine March Madness times 1.3 billion.  

So, of course, it’s impossible not to get caught up. I was at this tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant, with no menus, decorum or even a door. It’s just an alley with some tables, chairs and a television. Eating dinner and watching basketball with some of my Chinese friends, they were eager to tell me about how China will surpass the U.S. in the medal count, and how symbolic it will be that it happens at their games. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that China has purposely invested billions into events that are both under-funded and unappreciated in the West in a deliberate attempt to pad the medal tally. I refrained from mentioning that we, as Americans, only care about marquee events like gymnastics, the 100-meter and Michael Phelps. They can have their women’s weightlifting and badminton glory and dominate the pistol and rifle events. We don’t care. 

And then, in a flash, I felt a strange surge of nationalism, and something dawned on me. Shooting events? Whaa!? The United States should be every bit as embarrassed to lose an event involving guns as we are about our past basketball mishaps. Seriously guys, guns? That’s like the time I got a C in a guitar class at Tulane. My dad screamed, “C? In guitar? But that’s what you do!” It was a classical-guitar class, and I never practiced for it, but I feel exactly like him now. Our country is built on the right to have guns. We let tens of thousands of people die every year, including many innocent children, in defense of that right, and we can’t take home the gold? We should be ashamed. I’m not losing the medal count to China because you stupid gun nuts can’t shoot straight. Seriously, put down that beer and focus on the target. Your nation’s pride is at stake. What’s the matter? Have too many people watched “Menace II Society” and we all go around like O-Dawg shooting sideways? 

We need to make the NRA prove that good can come from guns, because I don’t see it. People get shot. That’s what guns do. We need an ultimatum. If they want to keep their precious guns, then, by God, we better send a top-notch bunch every four years and win every shooting event. They owe it to their nation. I can’t believe Republicans aren’t more upset by this. It’s everything they stand for, and we need to win the medal count. 

Of course, I’m not saying this aloud to my friends. I was just thinking it. So I sipped my beer and relaxed, remembering that I don’t care about nonsense like medal counts, pistol shooting or nationalism. Obviously, I’ve rooted for Phelps, Dana Torres and Tyson Gay, but I really just want a good, clean Olympics with no doping scandals and no terrorist attacks — and to see a couple little countries take home their first-ever medals. Not that it’s little, but seeing India get its first-ever individual gold reminds me of why I love the games. Then I ribbed my friends about the U.S. trouncing China in basketball, 101-70.