Big Brother Meets the Terrace

With the 2008 Olympic soccer tournament approaching, China is eagerly preparing to completely miss the point:

“Zhongguo, Zhongguo — ha, ha, ha. Zhongguo, Zhongguo bi sheng,” the crowd shouts, simultaneously beating yellow, stick-shaped batons to the rhythm. “Jia you, jia you.” Rough translation: “China, China — ha, ha, ha. China, China must win. Let’s go, let’s go.”

One of about 20 cheers approved by authorities, it’s drilled a half-dozen times, orderly repetitions practiced in a meeting hall darkened by stained gray carpet squares and wood paneling. Thirty red and yellow paper lanterns dangle overhead, casting faint light on government slogans papering the walls.

Welcome to the “Beijing Civilized Workers Cheering Squad,” a public-education program to teach sportsmanship, all part of a larger Olympic etiquette campaign to show off a polite, prosperous and powerful China.

“We are not going to shout profanities in front of foreigners because the Olympics is a show for foreigners,” said Lui Wei, a 21-year-old spectator attending a recent Guo’an game.

Said foreigners were off buying books on Chinese swear words and were not available for comment.

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