Oddly Enough

Don't streak, get drunk or sleep outside at Olympics

BEIJING (Reuters) - Do not sleep outdoors to save money at the Olympics. It is banned to “maintain public hygiene and the cultured image of cities”.

A security guard stands in front of the Olympic rings at Tiananmen Square in Beijing July 29, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

Do not let the stifling summer heat tempt you into streaking, do not get drunk nor set off fireworks nor wave “insulting banners”.

Anyone with mental illnesses or sexually transmitted diseases is banned. Smoking is not allowed at Olympic venues.

The rules on the organisers’ official website say it all:

“Foreigners must respect Chinese laws while in China and must not harm China’s national security or damage social order.”

The security-obsessed authorities are taking no chances with the 500,000 tourists set to hit Beijing for the Games.

A battery of surface-to-air missile launchers are being deployed around the showpiece sites.

No detail is too trivial.

Lighters have been banned on domestic flights. Commuters are being asked to take a swig from water bottles on the subway to ensure they do not contain suspicious substances.

All public swimming pools in Shanghai will check shampoos and body wash.


Authorities have promised “civilised and convenient” security checks but have been accused of obsessive stage management -- visa restrictions have been tightened for visitors and Beijing is being rid of petitioners, the homeless and migrant workers.

Up to 1,000 Chinese families are opening up their homes to Olympic visitors, a move that would have been unheard of before the reform and opening up of China in the 1980s.

But the hosts could still be in for a culture shock.

Retired school teacher Yuan Xioaoqing, who is opening up her home, said “Foreign students like to stay out all night on the weekend. But in more intellectual and traditional Chinese households there is no way the kids would go out like that.”

Beijing has learnt a lesson from the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Dog meat is off the menu in the Chinese capital during the Olympics in case animal rights groups are offended.

Exotic names and alarming translations abound in Chinese restaurants which are being given a linguistic makeover, though only in select restaurants.

Out goes the traditionally named “husband and wife’s lung slice” appetiser which is being replaced by the more linguistically correct “beef and ox tripe in chilli sauce”.

But no mention was made of the many popular establishments that have donkey on the menu.

The authorities have also worked hard to eliminate “Chinglish” from road signs and menus in the run-up to the Olympics, even if efforts have been a little hit and miss.

Gone is the infamous “Racist Park” signpost for the Ethnic Minorities Park.

Anyone hoping to scoop up a bagful of cheap pirate movies or music could be in for a disappointment. The city has announced a round-the-clock drive to stamp out bootleg sellers, but pirated DVDs are still available if you know where to look.

Yet however much they are obsessed by security and a burning desire to portray the squeaky clean image of a well ordered society, the Chinese insist the welcome will be warm.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: “China is a safe place. Please be assured. China is a nation with great hospitality and courtesy.”

Editing by Jon Bramley