Ai Weiwei is one of China’s best-known artists, and is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living figures of his profession. Working with the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, they helped design the Bird’s Nest Stadium, which is the centerpiece of Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics.
The stadium, located in northern Beijing, immediately recognizable for its curved weave of steel beams, will also host the opening ceremony of Beijing’s Winter Olympics on 4 February.
In the design phase, Ai hoped that the lattice form of the stadium and the appearance of the Olympics would symbolize China’s new openness. He was disappointed. He has repeatedly described the stadium and the 2008 Olympics as the “fake smile” that China has presented to the world.
AI expects Winter Games to offer the same.
Before his fame landed him a job in design, Ai was an unrelenting critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He was jailed in China in 2011 for unspecified crimes and is now a vocal dissident who lives in exile in Portugal. He has also been in exile in Germany – he still maintains a studio there – and in the UK.
His art – from sculpture to architecture to photography, video and the written word – is almost always provocative, and he worries about censorship and the absence of civil liberties in his native country.
His Memoirs – “1000 Years of Happiness and Sorrow” — was published last year and details the overlap of his life and career with that of his father, Ai Qing, a noted poet who was sent into internal exile in 1957, the year Ai Weiwei was born.
Ai writes in his memoir: “The year I was born, Mao Zedong created a political storm—an anti-rightist campaign designed to purge “right-wing” intellectuals who criticized the government. The whirlpool that swallowed my father changed my life too, leaving an impression on me that I carry to this day.”
He quotes his father: “The most cruel form of violence is to suppress the voice of the people.”
Ai responded to a list of questions by email from the Associated Press. He used his dashed hopes for Bird’s Nest to explain how China has changed since 2008.
“My goal as an architect was to be the same as other architects, that is, to design it as completely as possible,” Ai wrote to the Associated Press. “The way it was used later went in the opposite direction from our ideals. We hoped that our architecture could be a symbol of freedom and openness and represent optimism and positive force, which would ultimately be a propaganda tool. As it was very different from using it.
The 2008 Olympics are commonly seen as a “coming out” party. As for China, when the IOC awarded the Olympics to Beijing in 2001, it said they could help improve human rights. Instead, the AI dubbed the 2008 Olympics a “low point” because migrant workers were driven out of town, small shops were closed and street vendors removed, and block-long billboards popped up, was featured with palm trees and beach views. Neighborhood from view.
“The entire Olympics took place in a blockade,” Ai told the Associated Press. “There was no joy in participation for the general public. Instead, there was close cooperation between the International Olympic Committee and the Chinese regime, who performed together to obtain economic and political capital.
Ai wrote in his book that he watched the opening ceremony on a television screen not far from the stadium, and summarized the following.
“In this world where everything has a political dimension, we are now told that we should not politicize things: it is merely a sporting event, separate from history and ideas and values - also separate from human nature Is.”
The IOC and China say again that the Olympics have separated from politics. Of course, China has political objectives in mind. For the IOC, the Olympics is a sporting business that generates billions in sponsor and television income.
In his email, Ai described China as excited by the 2008 Olympics – “more confident and uncompromising.” He said the 2008 Olympics was a “negative” that allowed China’s government to better shape its message. The Olympics didn’t turn China into the IOC’s suggestion or ways to promote civil liberties. Instead, China used the Olympics to change how it was perceived on the world stage and signal its growing power.
The World Financial Crisis a month after the 2008 Games and the rise of Secretary General Xi Jinping in 2012. Xi was the senior politician in charge of the 2008 Olympics, but the 2022 Games are his own.
“Since 2008, the Chinese government has further tightened its control and the human rights situation has worsened,” Ai told the Associated Press. “China has seen the hypocrisy and passivity of the West on human rights issues, so they have become even bolder, more dishonest and more brutal. In 2022, China will be harder on human rights, the Internet and political life, including the press and V-media The CCP does not care whether the West participates in the Games or not because China believes the West is too busy with its own affairs.
AI described the 2022 Winter Olympics and the pandemic as lucky times for China’s authoritarian government. The pandemic will limit the movement of journalists during the Games, and it will also demonstrate the state’s Orwellian control.
“China, under the system of state capitalism and especially after COVID, firmly believes that its administrative control is the only effective method; This enhances their belief in authoritarianism. Meanwhile, China thinks that the West, with its ideas of democracy and freedom, can hardly achieve effective control. Therefore, the 2022 Olympics will testify to the effectiveness of authoritarianism in China and the desperation of the democratic rule of the West.
AI repeatedly criticized the IOC as a supporter; Fully interested in generating income from the Chinese market. Both the IOC and China see the Games as a business opportunity. Ai suggested that many Chinese see the Olympics as another political exercise – like some athletes – trying to extract value.
“China has only party guidance, state-controlled media and people brainwashed by the media,” Ai wrote. “There is no real civil society. In this circumstance, the Chinese people are not interested in the Olympics at all because it is simply a display of state politics. Nationally trained athletes are of economic benefit to individuals or even sports organizations for Olympic gold medals; this way of doing things deviates from the core ideas of the Olympics.”
Ai was asked if there were plans to go back to China. He said he was suspicious.
“Given the current situation, it is highly unlikely for me to be able to return to China,” he said. “My main point here is that the situation in China has worsened. The boycott of the West is futile and futile. China doesn’t care about it at all.”
Associated Press Sportswriter Stephen Wade reported for the Associated Press from Beijing for the 2 1/2 years leading up to the 2008 Olympics, and also the follow-up.
More Associated Press Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports