Olympics fever sweeping Beijing

Filed under: Big Kids, In The News, That's Entertainment

Olympic fever has struck Beijing. The excitement over the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics has some Chinese kids performing their own feats of daring and prompting concerns for their well-being. There's the 10-year-old girl who's father had her swimming in a river with her hands and feet bound in an effort to help her reach her goal of swimming the English Channel. There is an 8-year-old Olympic hopeful who has been running 40 miles a day while her father rides behind her on an electric bicycle. And then there is Yang Yang, a 4-year-old boy who's grandmother wants him to become a world champion swimmer and allows him to ride a 1,000 beluga whale just for fun.

"There's tremendous competition, a lot of pressure for kids to do well at something in China today. It's something that parents can get pride out of and perhaps make money at," said Grant Evans, a professor of anthropology at the University of Hong Kong.

Even those parents with children far too young to begin rigorous training for anything have been bitten by the Olympic fever bug. Since 2000, when Beijing was bidding to be the host of the 2008 Olympics, 3,491 Chinese children have been named "Aoyun", the Chinese word for Olympics.

And then there are the "Five Friendlies", the official mascots of the Beijing Games. These cute little cartoon characters were designed to express the playful qualities of children and have inspired more than 4,000 parents to copy their names - Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni, which, when put together translates to "Beijing welcomes you!"

Ellie will be old enough to appreciate the games next year and I am looking forward to watching them with her. I was her age when Mark Spitz inspired my love of swimming. A few years later, Dorothy Hamill not only had me ice skating, but chopping off my hair into a rather unflattering bob. I wonder how Ellie will be inspired.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.