Part of the media frenzy is reflected in the TV ads, both 'official' and commercial, leading up to 8-08-08. One of most aired aids on BTV (Beijing TV) channels in March and April was “We Are Ready” (lyrics in English). Movie, TV and music stars gathered to sing “We Are Ready”. The first time I saw the 7 minute ad in its entirety, I was appalled. I was already pissed off by the exclusively English lyrics. But the ad also showed that we were very much Not Ready. Most of the times, the mouth movements did not match the audio track. You know what it reminded me of? For those of us who grew up in New York in the 70s and the 80s, WWOR (which is still channel 9 in present day NYC) used to show kung-fu movies on Saturday afternoons. Back then just about all the imported Chinese films were dubbed, and not only were the translations hilarious, the lip movements never matched what you heard.
So I have been trying to find excuses for this. Well, most foreign movies shown on Chinese TV are still dubbed. Ditto for a good portion of the pirated foreign films on DVD or VCD. Even more egregious are some of the TV serials. You ask, “Why would they dub Chinese over the Chinese?” These days most of the high profile serials involve Chinese stars all around the world. For instance, the two male leads of Huo Yuan Jia (the most recent movie version was “Fearless” and starred Jet Li) were both Cantonese (one actually from Hong Kong), and since the real historical characters were from the north (Tianjin and Beijing), they had to dub Mandarin over whatever they spoke on the set. I have a feeling that most Chinese are not very bothered by the mismatch. Hell, it even makes the ‘acting’ easier! The actors don’t have to remember all their lines!
I must say that the most recent ads are much improved. The music video that is most played these days (at least on the various BTV channels) is “Beijing Welcome You” (lyrics in Chinese). It shows many media darlings singing in the various Beijing locales and tourist spots. And Beijing is indeed as beautiful as the video!
I do hope some of my friends back in the US are taping the US ads for me. Here, one of the most popular is the series by Adidas, featuring real Olympic athletes (in red) and regular Chinese (in black and white). In one, with the Chinese women's volleyball team, when the Chinese players jumps to block, the other non-athletes behind them jump with them. "Impossible is Nothing" is the Adidas tag line. Adidas is going head to head with Li Ning's sportswear company ("Anything is Possible"). Both have contributed heavily (roughly 10 billion yuan each) to the Olympics.
But my favorite ad is the one by Nike, and feature the song "Heroes" sung by David Bowie. Unfortunately, it was shown in the spring and I haven’t seen it in a few months. It showed Olympic athletics preparing and practicing in Beijing. Some in their homes. Some using the local Beijing athletic fields, courts and gyms. These video segments of athletes were juxtaposed with segments of common Beijing folks running, swimming, kids playing basketball, soccer, teenagers hopping & styling on mountain bikes, ... There was even one swimmer shown diving into Hou Hai (one of the series of ponds next to the center of the city; also one of my favorite spots). Part of the fun for me was in identifying the athletes and the locale. And all this while David Bowie sang (We can be) "Heroes".
Here's the refrain from "Heroes":
Will keep us together
We can beat them
For ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes, …
At the very end of the ad, the gold-medalist hurdler, Liu Xiang looked straight on and spoke in earnest
(a particular translation from an on-line version of this ad: "It's just a game. You decide how to play." but I prefer a more direct, though less literal,
"It's how you play the game.").
Let the Games begin!