Lyn Jeffery

How will the grand cross-cultural encounter that is the 2008 Beijing Olympics affect the cyber realm? Although journalists are wondering how China’s press regulations will affect their ability to report, the fact is that official reports will be only a part of the story, appearing amidst an explosion of firsthand writings and video clips made by tourists and foreign journalists. Today the weblogs of expatriates living in China offer innumerable views of daily life; and one can find online photo albums and video clips from travelers to even the most remote places. The Olympics will bring a new flood of personal accounts of Beijing experiences, written by professional journalists, ordinary spectators, and even perhaps some of the athletes themselves. Unscripted encounters between first-time visitors to China and genuinely welcoming Chinese residents will be filmed and blogged and seen around the world.

From a technological perspective, we can expect the online coverage of athletic events to be sophisticated from the Chinese side, with video highlights and perhaps even live feeds available to those who know how to access them. If NBC and ESPN aren’t enough, serious Olympic fans may find themselves bookmarking the English-language Beijing Olympics homepage, or learning how to download peer-to-peer applications that let them view Chinese television broadcasts of events in real time. In what’s probably being seen as a dry run for 2008, the Chinese media giant Shanghai Media Group has already partnered with the Chinese company Mysee to create a customized “P2P [peer-to-peer] flow media technology platform” for this year’s World Cup. Chinese soccer fans will be able to see live soccer games online.

What could be most groundbreaking, however, is Chinese blogging and BBS posting in English and Chinese on encounters with visitors, a kind of citizen diplomacy that should reveal new voices in the English-language online world. And the Chinese bloggers who do write in English may do for China and Chinese perspectives what Iraqi bloggers writing in English did for Iraq at the beginning of the Iraq war: Chinese bloggers may make it possible for Westerners to see China and the Olympics through the eyes of the people who live there. If the Chinese authorities permit it, the Beijing 2008 Olympic goal to “fully express the common aspiration of the Chinese people to jointly seek peace, development and common progress together with the peoples of the world ” may be most fully realized in the virtual realm.

Those interested in getting a head start in the 2008 Olympics online might check out the following websites:
· The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (
· The online portfolio of the professional photographer Natalie Behring, which includes a section on Olympic preparations. Behring is currently living in Beijing; her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and the Chicago Tribune (

Source: Jeffery, Lyn. (2006). Virtual China: Beijing Olympics in cyberspace. Guanxi: The China Letter, 3, 9.