Beijing scraps red armbands for a stylish Olympics

BEIJING Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:51pm EDT

An elderly woman (wearing red armband), who serves as a guardian against illegal practices in her neighborhood, patrols in front of a giant poster promoting Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, February 22, 2001. China's capital will replace Communist-era red armbands worn by hundreds of thousands of security volunteers with stylish Olympic badges ahead of the 2008 Summer Games, local media said on Friday. REUTERS/Andrew Wong

An elderly woman (wearing red armband), who serves as a guardian against illegal practices in her neighborhood, patrols in front of a giant poster promoting Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, February 22, 2001. China's capital will replace Communist-era red armbands worn by hundreds of thousands of security volunteers with stylish Olympic badges ahead of the 2008 Summer Games, local media said on Friday.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Wong

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's capital will replace Communist-era red armbands worn by hundreds of thousands of security volunteers with stylish Olympic badges ahead of the 2008 Summer Games, local media said on Friday.

Red armbands were a status symbol of the radical Red Guards during the frantic and deadly 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution when youngsters purged intellectuals, officials and other politically condemned groups.

The armbands have been bestowed mainly upon "public security volunteers" -- pensioners, guards, workers -- since China ended waves of devastating political movements and started to concentrate on economic growth in the late 1970s.

Red armbands and other archaic Communist symbols are still officially emblems of glory, justice, righteousness and worthiness of trust, but in general their appeal is waning in an increasingly diverse society.

"The red armbands have been used in Beijing for many decades. They should change with the times and take on a new appearance with a contemporary feel," Liu Rui, an official from the Chongwen district, was quoted by the Beijing News as saying.

The design for the new chest badge had been completed and was awaiting final official approval, the newspaper said, citing Yu Hongyuan, deputy head of the city's police force.

On an ordinary day in the capital, red armbands are still common, as they are in the countryside.

"Streets and alleyways are dotted by the red armbands and strangers would be immediately surrounded by questioning grandpas and grandmas when they walk into a neighborhood," the Beijing News said.

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