China wowed the world last Friday evening with their spectacular opening ceremonies for the Olympics. Those ceremonies had been in the works for two years. And for several years prior to that they had been building the sites, preparing their cities, and promoting not just the games but their image. These Olympics were to be their coming out party to showcase China to the world. This was the time for them to shine.
They promised these would be the best games ever held. Not only would the games be the best, the atmosphere and the spectacle would do both China and the Olympics proud.
Although the immediate lead up to the games was shaky with arrests of dissidents, preventing some foreign protesters from protesting, and a number of other issues, the games got off with a magnificent start. The world was wowed and hopes were high that these really would be the greatest games ever.
Then the trouble started-just little signs that maybe all was not what it seemed. Some of the opening night fireworks had been faked-just to make them stand out better on TV. Then the girl who sang wasn't really the girl who sang. Then questions about the eligibility of some of their athletes. Now questions about whether the kids carrying out the Chinese flag were what the Chinese said they were.
There seems to be new questions daily about what was real and what that opening night wasn't. As the questions mount, the press is looking more closely at not only the opening night ceremonies but at other aspects of the events-the Chinese teams and coaches, the officiating, and the presentation of China the country is putting on.
Most of the issues uncovered have been relatively minor-fireworks enhanced to make them standout better on TV, a girl substituted for the real singer because they felt the substitute represented China's image better, kids from a single ethnic group representing all ethnic groups in the country because it was easier to get an existing troupe to perform.
Yet these small incidents accumulate and cause many to question just how much of what they are seeing is real and how much isn't. Years of preparation and credibility building brought down in just a few days because of a series of small, meaningless, unnecessary incidents.
This on a big scale before the eyes of the world, but this same dynamic can destroy our credibility just as quickly. Ours may not be fakery. Ours may not be smoke and mirrors. Ours may simply be a series of small promises not kept, dates missed, phone calls unreturned. But the damage is the same. Those small promises, those unimportant dates, those too busy to return phone calls can destroy us more quickly than anything else because we think no one will notice. The problem is-they will notice.
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