I admit it: I'm just not all that interested in the Olympics. I was really thrilled to see in the DomPost that I'm not alone - a survey showed that almost four out of every ten people (39.something percent) aren't all that interested in them. We may be couch potatoes, but so are most of the people who ARE interested. And at least we're probably reading something while we're lolling there.
I didn't sit up for the opening ceremony, but I did watch the highlights. Like everyone else, I was stunned - especially by the incredibly banal, stodgy, limited commentary from the guys (Sophie was good, but she didn't get much of a look-in).
But what's really striking is the revelation that the impossibly cute little girl singing "I Sing for My Motherland", 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, was substituted at the last minute for the 7-year-old originally chosen, Yang Peiyi. Her voice was used, but she was dropped after the dress rehearsal at the behest of a senior Chinese leader, because she wasn't pretty or perfect enough.
The only surprising thing about all this is that we know about it. The musical director revealed the switch because he wanted to make sure Peiyi's contribution was recognised.
"The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression. Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects. But in the aspect of voice, Yang Peiyi is flawless, in each member of our team's view." They had already dropped the 10-year-old originally chosen because she was "a little too old".
So here's how China and the USA match up. Those who run both countries - the business power brokers as well as the politicians - are intent on putting across a picture perfect image of what they're about, no matter who or what gets crushed in the process.
Remember Jessica Lynch? The official story of her battle involvement, capture and rescue turned out to be a load of hogwash. The powers-that-be had massaged the facts to turn her into a fitting symbol for what they were doing in Iraq.
(By the way, did you hear Condoleeza Rice saying today, with a completely straight face, that Russia could not expect to just march into another country and overthrow its leader - "those days are over"?)
The really sad thing is that so many perfectly normal women - and girls, even - can't wait to prove the powers-that-be are right, and picture perfect is all that matters, no matter what it costs them. Nose jobs, breast implants and botox in the US, eye jobs, leg lengthening and skin whitening in China - there's no difference. I bet little Ying Peiyi has already started saving up to have her teeth fixed.
Go to Scoop to read my new Letter from Elsewhere on National's welfare policy, "Closing the door to hope". And while you're there, see Lyndon Hood's advice on how to impose sanctions on beneficiaries.