Think They're Sending A Message?
As the world's most-prolific mass murderers launch their jumbo-sized celebration of Sport and global coming-out party, Samizdata reminded us of the genius behind the PRC's 2008 Olympic Games facilities in Beijing:
The son of Hitler’s favourite architect, who was ordered by the Führer to turn Berlin into the greatest city in the world, has designed a key route to the Beijing Olympic site.
Albert Speer Jr, who was born a year after Hitler came to power, was recruited by the Chinese authorities as lead designer on the huge architectural project to redesign the sprawling city ahead of the 2008 Games.
Their choice has stirred ghosts from the past. More than 70 years ago Speer’s father, dubbed the “Devil’s Architect”, was charged with a similar task of rebuilding the Reich capital and turning it into an unrivalled global metropolis.
It was to be called Welthaupt-stadt (World Capital) Germania and designed to be bigger, grander and bolder than any other city to fit Hitler’s obsession with the idea of creating a modern-day Rome as the capital of his empire.
Beijing’s radical reconstruction has been described as totalitarian architecture, similar to Speer the elder’s grandiose but unfulfilled plans.
The most distinctive feature of Speer Jr’s blueprint has been a central five-mile strip, running from a new railway station in the south of the capital past Tianan-men Square and the Forbidden City to the new Olympic Green.
The strip is known as the “central north-south axis” and is still under construction by armies of migrant workers working around the clock.
Critics have suggested an uncanny parallel between Speer’s Beijing axis and the three-mile north-south axis, also flanked by train stations, that was planned by his father for Hitler’s new Berlin.
The Berlin boulevard was never completed because of the outbreak of the second world war, although many of Berlin’s tenements were bulldozed to make way for it...
Blogger Mick Hartley also cites an article from the Taipei Times, written by Nikita Khruschev's granddaughter, that provides more context for the PRC's actions:
When the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games begins in a few days, viewers will be presented with a minutely choreographed spectacle swathed in nationalist kitsch. Of course, images that recall Hitler’s goose-stepping storm troopers are the last thing that China’s leaders have in mind for their Olympics; after all, official Chinese nationalism proclaims the country’s “peaceful rise” within an idyll of “harmonious development.” But, both aesthetically and politically, the parallel is hardly far-fetched.
Indeed, by choosing Albert Speer, the son of Hitler’s favorite architect and the designer of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to design the master plan for the Beijing Games, China’s government has itself alluded to the radical politicization of aesthetics that was a hallmark of 20th-century totalitarianism.
Like those regimes, whether fascist or communist, China’s leaders have sought to transform public space and sporting events into visible proof of their fitness and mandate to rule.
Speer’s commission was to lay out a master plan for the access to the Olympic complex in Beijing. His design centered on the construction of an imposing avenue to connect the Forbidden City and the National Stadium in which the opening ceremony will take place. His father’s plan for “Germania,” the name Adolf Hitler selected for the Berlin that he planned to construct after World War II, also relied on such a mighty central axis.
China’s rulers see the Olympics as a stage for demonstrating to the world the exceptional vitality of the country they have built over the past three decades. And that demonstration serves an even more important domestic political objective: further legitimizing the regime’s continuing rule in the eyes of ordinary Chinese.
Given this imperative, an architectural language of bombast and gigantism was almost inevitable.
So it is no surprise that the Beijing Games may resemble the hubristic Games that beguiled the Fuhrer and enthralled the German masses in 1936.
Like the Beijing Games, the Berlin Olympics were conceived as a coming-out party. Josef Goebbels’ Nazi propaganda machine was fully deployed. Athletic imagery — used to brilliant effect in Leni Riefenstahl’s acclaimed documentary — appeared to create a link between the Nazis and the ancient Greeks, and to confirm the Nazi myth that Germans and German civilization were the true heirs to the “Aryan” culture of classical antiquity.
While designing the master plan for the Beijing Games, Speer, an acclaimed architect and town planner, also sought, like his father, to create a futuristic global metropolis. Of course, the language that he used to sell his scheme to the Chinese was very different from the words his father used to present his plans to Hitler.
Instead of emphasizing his design’s pomposity, the younger Speer insisted on its environmental friendliness. The 2,000-year-old city of Beijing should be transported into hyper-modernity, whereas his father’s 1936 Berlin design was, in his words, “simply megalomania.”
Of course, the sins of the father should never be visited on the son. But, in this case, when the son borrows essential elements of his father’s architectural principles and serves a regime that seeks to use the Games for some of the same reasons that animated Hitler, is he not willingly reflecting those sins?
Totalitarian regimes — the Nazis, the Soviets in 1980 and now the Chinese — desire to host the Olympics as a way to signal to the world their superiority. China believes that it has found its own model to develop and modernize, and its rulers regard the Games in the same way as the Nazis and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev did, as a means of “selling” their model to a global audience...
But now we have returned to an aesthetic of political mesmerization, reflected in the host government’s declared aim that China should win more gold medals than any country before.
As the Olympic torch relay — itself a creation of the Nazis, first employed in the Berlin Games — makes its way down Speer’s avenue of power, the world will once again be made to witness a triumph of the totalitarian will.
Read each of the articles, and keep them in mind when some chowderhead starts yammering about how great 'the Games' are.
76 million murdered and counting since the Communists took over in 1949.
Each a human life snuffed out by their own government.