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Introduction to my Olympic Legacy Blog from Beijing

Out basketball hero John Amaechi blogs for GT!


This blog is probably not what you expect. I am probably not going to be what you expect, I have never considered myself easily described and have never wanted to be. Nowadays, I ply my trade as a psychologist and speaker in the US and UK and even dabble in a little TV work. I am not going to bore you with details, you can always look at my “official bio” on this site (I didn’t write it!) or look me up in Wikipedia (if you can access it where you live.) I will hope that you come here with an open mind as I intend nothing more than to create a little awareness, champion as best I can, the principle of universal human rights and maybe start a conversation or two around the water cooler and on the web. I believe that in general people are sophisticated, in composition if not manner, nuanced - the very definition of gestalt - the whole being more than the sum of the parts. As such we should never be easily boiled down into a label that becomes smothering and burdensome, rather than a means to understand each other.

As I journey to Beijing to learn and understand I know I can’t come with a blanket understanding of this vast country. I have to come with an open mind, in awe in many respects of a culture I have admired since childhood and, truthfully, in fear of a government that is paying a little too much attention to me, a nobody on the geo-political scene.

As such, this blog will be different that you will expect, especially if you’ve never met me. I aim to keep my thoughts as open-minded, unfettered and unclouded as possible by the spectre of room bugging, internet monitoring and journalistic limitations (both my own and those imposed by the Chinese authorities.)

I can not, however, promise concise.

I will post my thoughts and experiences for the duration of the games and when I return to England I a going to pen some sort of summary of my journey. You will have to indulge me if you are a hardcore human rights activist, as not every paragraph will necessary be linked to your cause celebre, I do like to broaden the conversation from time to time.

I want this to be an interactive forum, mostly because I am fully aware, as a wise man once said, that no one would listen (read) if they didn’t know it was their turn to speak (write) next, so I will pay attention to your thoughts, I truly look forward to seeing your comments and questions and I will try to answer them conscientiously, or find someone who is qualified to do so.

If I do have the opportunity to speak with athletes, dissidents or regular Chinese folk, I will also post their comments here.

If you are a member of the international media in attendance and wish to speak to me in my capacity as the Olympic ambassador for Amnesty International, then please contact Amy Pfister at amy@fifteenminutes.com . It’s just easier to have everything go through one conduit.

Moving on…

According to Jung, there are a finite number of intrinsically human archetypal stories and to make what I am doing seem grander and more relevant, I will call this journey a quest. Like all good quest stories this one is as much about self-discovery as some tangible end-game. As with every quest, I will have companions, I would like to say we comprise a wise wizard, a hot elf and a noble prince, but in reality I believe we are just three blundering hobbits, and that being the case, I fear I am the fat one. My friends, Jeff and his partner Brandon will be meeting me in Beijing. Jeff will also be blogging on the site, as someone who has lived and studied in Beijing in the past, I think his perspective will be illuminating. The fact that he speaks Mandarin won’t hurt either, assuming we can find someone willing to talk to us on issues of substance.

Jeff has been responsible for putting this site together, and will be doing the technical side of updating, as I am just the pretty face on this operation. He is also a professional photographer with a studio in Los Angeles, so he will be putting together a photo diary of the games, as well as promising to make me look good.

So to the format….

At our best, there will be a blog a day, maybe even one by each of us and sometimes we will collaborate on a written blog, vlog or podcast. Each effort will be labelled so you can comment and berate the right person.

As a disclaimer: my thoughts do not (necessarily) constitute the opinions of the BBC, Amnesty International or the British and US governments (although you might want to read the respective government statements on the human rights in China and make your own mind up.) There I said it, the BBC will be happy(er) and the sword now dangles squarely above my bald spot.

One thing this blog will not be is a searing, judgemental indictment of an entire culture. My criticisms lie with the authorities and not the people of China. I have been enamoured with the culture since childhood. I grew up watching “Monkey” - aptly, the BBC has chosen the characters from that TV series - another classic quest story - to bridge it’s coverage.

That show was my first taste of China, amazing, but flawed hero’s fighting for justice against a cruel authority whilst at the same time seeking personal redemption. It engendered in me a reverence for Chinese culture and art (martial and otherwise) that has endured to this day.

I am not making any bold analogies for me as a hero - I am simply trying to do a little good, be the role model, my Mum would be proud of. Indeed, if I was injected into the fable of Monkey, I suspect I would be Monkey’s sidekick “Pigsy” (the fat one.)

Please enjoy the blog, my hope is that it inspires in you my favourite brain training exercise - “meta-thinking” - that is thinking about the way you think about things. I encourage you to take a step back, do a little research and re-evaluate your perspective and priorities. Maybe you’ll even become an armchair activist or dip in your pocket and lend a hand where you see fit.

Read on & Enjoy!

~ John Amaechi

Read John Amaechi's Beijing Olympic blog daily at www.beijinglegacyblog.com

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