Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brought to You Today by the Letter S and the Number 2

S is for Sleeve, on the second I have knit some:

S is for Second Sock. Since we last met, I have knit none.

S is for Sweep, since my mother in law's to come. Sweep, sweep, sweep.

S is for Sleep, I'll do that when the Olympics are done.


I've been enjoying the Olympics, with one major caveat, discussed below. Michael Phelps is astounding. One of the Washington Post sportswriters dubbed him Giant Squid Boy, and it fits. Every time he breathes near a pool, he breaks a world record it seems. Watching him really is watching history being made.

Gymnastics is always fun to watch, too, but the controversy over the Chinese gymnasts is seriously deserving of investigation. CNN, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated are all reporting on evidence from Chinese records that some of its gymnasts are 14 or even 13 years old, when the rules state the competitors have to turn 16 during the Olympic year. This is just flat out cheating that shouldn't be swept under the rug in an attempt to avoid insulting our hosts.

The age thing is far less of a distraction to me than the whole Chinese sports system is. During the gymnastics event, the announcers mentioned that the Chinese team captain, who is now 20 years old, was identified by the Chinese government as being potentially talented in this area and removed from her family to attend a training institution when she was three years old. She was allowed one visit per year with her family. At one point, she wanted to quit, but didn't. I don't know if she was literally forced to stay, but in the Chinese culture, talk of "honoring your family and your country" is tantamount to coercion. This is child abuse, pure and simple. Worse, this is a form of slavery. I have a very hard time watching those little girls, as beautiful and as talented as they are, without wondering what kind of emotional damage has been done to them.

Like I mentioned in my little ditty above, my MIL is arriving tomorrow and staying until Monday evening. There will likely be little knitting, and probably no posting until next week, so have a great weekend, everyone.


Sharon said...

As much as I respect and appreciate so many aspects of Chinese culture, I find its human rights record appalling. I am very bothered by China's hosting of the Olympics this year--the little girl gymnasts you describe so well a prime example why. But I have often felt the same way when I looked at what were formerly "Eastern Bloc" athletes, and wondered what sort of steroid cocktails were being pumped into them and from what unfathomably young age. China intrigues and mystifies me, but also makes me extremely uncomfortable, not in the least because of its disrespect for the individual and, in particular, for females. Watching those young gymnasts makes me very sad. It is, therefore, tough to appreciate the athletic talent.

Scott T. said...

I agree it's child abuse, but let me add a few thoughts: first, the 20 year old's parents said "no" to her coming home because it would be "better for the family" if she remained in the gymnastics program. Don't think the parents aren't complicit. The state supports/pays the families of the girls. Second, keep in mind that the alternative for those girls is probably to live in some shit hole shack in a little town in some provence. Because they are in the system, they get better care and potential opportunities that they wouldn't have otherwise; also, their families get supported. That's the "pay." Finally, don't think that something not far from it is not going on here and elsewhere. It's just not quite as bad and the kids' alternatives are much wider.

That said, they are cheating, and it is abusive. But for the girls, it may be better than the alternatives.

Now get our kids back to work!

Loren T said...


Absolutely, amen. How hard it must be for a lot of people to be there, smiling and pretending nothing's wrong. I actually saw a report online (that I haven't seen since or seen corroborated anywhere else) that the Chinese were executing certain troublemakers ahead of the Olympics, just so they wouldn't ruin things. If this was true, where was the outrage? And the intolerance and silencing of any potential dissenting voices extends to foreign nationals (Joey Cheek) whose visas get denied if they might say something the government doesn't want. I guess I can believe that the Bush administration, which wouldn't allow any non-Bush supporters at Bush events, is sympatico.


Whether or not the parents are complicit isn't really pertinent, as far as I'm concerned. Those children have NO CHOICE but to be where they are, doing what they're doing. It's wholly different if it's a 16 year old girl choosing to leave her family, but there's no way that I can accept that taking a three year old away from her family and forcing her to train relentlessly to be an Olympian is anything other than modern slavery. Their parents may be compensated, they may get a certain level of room and board, but they are still essentially slaves.

I guess it would be "better for the family" if the 20 year old gymnast stayed in the family -- I'd hate to think what measures would be taken against them if she didn't.

kippi said...

Totally agree with all comments. But what comes to mind is for some of these girls, they are lucky to be alive given the 'one child' system and the preference for boys. I wonder if those parents who give up these girls to the system are then allowed to have another child?

The one little girl has her baby teeth missing. There is no way she is older than 10. My hope is that the rest of the world gets upset and asks for a look at it all lest it just appear to be sour grapes from the U.S. That being said, there is little chance that Spineless Jacques R. is going to do/say anything about it.

HUZZAH for the second sleeve. I'm halfway through the second purple sock. Is it just me or is the Summer slowing other people down as well? Maybe because we are sweltering here and now are enjoying bad air days.

Isn't the DNC thing interesting? Between Scumbag Edwards, seemingly Spineless Obama and the Clinton duo, this is shaping up to be quite the convention.

Sharon said...

No matter how you look at it, it's a grisly faustian bargain for the girls and their families. And yes, Kippi, that girl who looks even younger than my 10-year old daughter (!) is heartbreaking. I understand what the alternative is for those who choose not to become an athlete (the family's or, irrelevantly, the child's)--which may be mere sophistry, because there is no real choice involved-- but any time a childhood is stolen (and yes, it does happen in the sports world here by rapacious parents or coaches), it is cause for grief.

I'm having sleeve envy--sleeves are what often keep me away from full fledged sweaters. In crochet, Doris Chan's patterns are top down and work the sleeves as you go. I tend to opt for these patterns, because I sadly lose all interest in the project by the time the sleeves need to be worked. I will look for you around Arlington, Loren, though, come autumn, in that tweedy sweater with the nuanced cable in the front!