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An Olympic cleanup we may not see

Posted by Staff  July 29, 2008 02:58 PM

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By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff

As China has tried to clean up its act ahead of the Olympics, much work has been done on its reputation, its streets, its menus (taking dog meat off temporarily, for example), even on the weather itself.


Officials, however, seem incapable of curing one of the most basic offenses.

At a nice restaurant in Beijing, a toddler urinated underneath the table next to me. The family just watched and helped the toddler relieve himself. In the famous tourist attractions or on the streets, people were doing their business.

Disposable diapers still don't seem to be widespread, and you quickly become familiar with the infamous slit pants -- on my flight from Beijing to the United States, a 7 year old decided to use the floor instead of the toilet and his mom just walked away. I had to track down the airline stewardess, who encouraged the mom to come back and clean up after him.

All this, despite the country's strenuous efforts to increase the number of public toilets, even to rate them -- there's four- or five-star-rated toilets at some of the tourist attractions.

Jenn Abelson was in Beijing ahead of the Games. Her story on Staples' role as the Olympics official furniture provider is here, and a video account is here.

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11 comments so far...
  1. Good thing you didn't order the poo poo platter!

    Posted by Jon July 29, 08 05:09 PM
  1. ha! I get it becasue poop and poo poo...good one bra

    Posted by dave July 29, 08 11:14 PM
  1. I am often in China and see this all the time. It is the strangest thing to see kids peeing anywhere and everywhere including on mom and dad. 5000 years of history and all they can come up with is pants with a hole on the bottom? Even the wealthier parents dress their kids in this goofy underwear.

    Posted by max July 30, 08 06:23 AM
  1. Can you think of the environmental impact of China starting to use disposable diapers?
    May be we should take a leaf out of their book. At least take the time to appreciate cultural differences.

    Posted by ben July 30, 08 11:37 AM
  1. That is disgusting.

    Posted by Anna July 30, 08 01:20 PM
  1. OK, that is ridiculous.....disgusting...most countries you'd get arrested.
    I'd heard China is a dirty place, but c'mon...some things don't belong.

    Posted by CRBOSTON July 30, 08 04:31 PM

  1. This is the same country where they had to take out a public education campaign several years in advance of the Olympics so that people would stop spitting on the sidewalk because the entire sidewalk would be glazed over with the vile bodily substance and the world wouldn't be as disgusted. Now it seems like the entire country is just one biohazard after another. I mean, forget disposable diapers; what about old-fashioned cloth ones? I shudder to think what happens when the kid needs to do number two.

    On another note, you still call flight attendants "stewardesses"? That's so 1968 and NOT in a retro-cool kind of way.

    Posted by Robin July 30, 08 05:00 PM
  1. Well, babies are messy, no matter what you do. The traditional split pants may be icky to American "cleanliness is next to godliness" sensibilities, but they're also cheaper and better for the environment than plastic diapers. Besides, it's just a little poop.

    Posted by Aaron Weber July 30, 08 05:39 PM
  1. Crotchless pants on toddlers and no apparent parental notice of eliminatory activity was my rude awakening to Shanghai ca. 1999. That, and choking pollution; no wonder everybody spits all over the place.

    Wait, that's not a dog poop...

    Posted by 42 July 30, 08 10:14 PM
  1. It just goes to show that, despite the glittery office towers and internet cafes, China's ways, so deeply rooted in its ancient agrarian tradition, are very very slow to change. If it is so hard to get people to understand that there is a difference between peeing in a wheat field, and peeing on a city street, think how much harder to demand that China's political tradition, so brutally authoritarian for the past 5000 years, change overnight into something like a liberal democracy? For pete's sake, it took the west more than 30 years to do so! China needs time and understanding to change for the better; it is changing, but at its own pace. I hope people reading your blogs will develop a better understanding of the complexities of China. Thanks! Mike

    Posted by Mike July 31, 08 10:31 AM
  1. That explains it.. Take a look from the air.. That stadium isn't a "bird's nest".. It's the worlds largest BEDPAN!

    Posted by Papabarn August 3, 08 07:27 PM

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