It goes without saying that we will not be in Beijing to cover the Olympics. Furthermore, we've never been to Beijing, and our Olympic experience is limited to one pair of first-round tickets to see the Dream Team crush Kyrgyzstan or somebody in Atlanta in 1996. None of this precludes us from rounding up all of the information on the Internet in order to tell the media that actually is covering the Olympics in Beijing how to do its job. So listen up! Don't be just another sap writing about Michael Phelps while being beaten by Chinese police. After the jump, the only guide to covering the wondrous 2008 Olympics you will ever need:
An expat in Beijing helpfully lists all the major cliches that you intrepid foreign correspondents should avoid. They include the following phrases:
"Coming out party"
"Beijing is a city of stark contrasts"
"A city of startling juxtapositions"
"A city of yin and yang"
"There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, 'May you live in interesting times'"
"The Chinese word for crisis includes the character for opportunity and the character for danger"
"China's rising middle class."
Also to be avoided: Blade Runner comparisons, quoting taxi drivers, stories about "Chinglish," stories about weird Chinese food, and making fun of the Olympic mascots. Make a note of these restrictions.
Watch Out For Cops
Remember Your Fake Credentials
The system for the media hordes in Beijing, apparently, is this: Yellow badges go to the important media people who get to be close to the center of the action. Blue badges go to unimportant stragglers who are stuffed into an auxiliary media center away from the action. Therefore, if you know you are unimportant, bring some yellow paper and a laser printer.
Bring Bribe Money
This tends to make things go more smoothly in savage lands like China. Also helpful for the cop situation (see above).
Cover Whatever Pops Off
The best story of these Olympics will happen when the inevitable activists pull off whatever big public stunt they're planning, and the Chinese government responds by either rounding them all up to be shipped off to a secret location, or crushing them right there in the streets. NBC certainly won't focus on it. All the really important journalists will be off covering the sporting events, to which they were able to score tickets. This will be your chance, unimportant marginal reporters! Make the most of it.
Forget The Masks
Yes, some of the athletes are wearing masks because of Beijing's dirty air. It was on the cover of the Post (bit of a stretch, we must say). But if you can't think of a new angle on this-maybe see how long you can hold your breath?-then just leave it alone. And for god's sake do not wear a mask yourself.
Find Some Poor People
They should be available all over Beijing, ready to share their colorful tales of urban life for a nominal fee. For a larger fee they may be willing to gripe about the Olympics, anonymously. Take advantage.
Find A Villain
The Olympics are the source of a neverending stream of grating, soft-focus profiles of athletes who overcame hardships to achieve their dream. Fuck that. Anyone watching the NBC broadcasts will have had a vomit-inducing amount of that schlock by the second day. What you need to do is find the evil athletes who have risen to the top despite being unmitigated assholes. The weightlifters who shoot designer steroids; the BMX bikers who bring their stash of Ecstasy to Beijing; the equestrian star who beats her kids. These are the profiles that will propel you to fame.
Find A Good Chinese Restaurant
Don't be a sucker who eats in the media village every day. Don't be an even worse sucker who eats at all the tourist restaurants. Be that guy who plunges into the heart of the urban jungle, finds an "authentic" Chinese restaurant, and then annoys your friends with repeated tales of your quest to ferret out that "authentic" Chinese restaurant. In years to come, this will be a great way to bring overlong dinner parties to a close.
Fuck Michael Phelps
Ha yes, we know some of you would like to do this literally. But we speak of a metaphorical fucking of Michael Phelps only. Everybody knows the motherfucker is going to win every race and be on a fucking Wheaties box. Do we have to hear hour upon hour of minutiae about his white-bread lifestyle, which consists mainly of going to the pool and possibly downing a few brews and being fellated by a sorority girl on the weekends? For fuck's sake. He seems like a nice guy, but really. He's a good swimmer. Go find those villains.