As the expected half million visitors converge on Beijing to attend the 2008 Olympic Games, they'll be welcomed with an unusual welcome gift: a set of rules about what they may and may not do while a guest in the city.
There'll be no sleeping in parks. No smoking at outdoor events. No shouting of slogans or sentiments that are deemed by the authorities to be harmful to the host country's morals, economy, or culture. No wearing of such slogans on T-shirts, either.
On top of those less-than-diplomatic touches, there's the blanket warning from the Chinese authorities stating that your tickets to any Olympic events don't guarantee your entry to the country at all.
Doesn't sound like a hospitable Olympic-city welcome. I'm sure you're wondering why anyone would bother attending. Sounds like China hasn't changed one bit. But let's put this regulated environment into an international context.
Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore for more than 20 years. Tickets to the US and Australian Olympics in the last decades did not guarantee entry to the country, either. Smoking is banned in public areas in Sweden, too. And you can't drink alcohol in public either.
Announcing the introduction of a joint Austria-Switzerland visa for the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, the Swiss Government's Federal Department of Justice and Police Web site warns that "the presentation of an admission ticket for a EURO 2008 game does not does not entitle [the holder] automatically to a visa." Being joint hosts of the next world championship event raises its problems: Austria is a member of the European Union and Switzerland is not. Hence the need for special visa provisions.
So, China is not peculiar. Every sovereign territory has its restrictions and regulations, built on a complex combination of culture, history, and international relationships. China has simply ticked all the boxes.
And that's the problem. They've ticked all the boxes. They've dotted the i's. They've crossed the t's. And they've arrive at a $15 billion PR package that... fails every time.