A letter to BOCOG

I was visiting the Web site of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) a few weeks ago, and was disappointed to find that the weather conditions in Beijing — temperature and wind speed — were given only in degrees Fahrenheit and miles per hour, respectively. I sent a suggestion through BOCOG’s online form, but several weeks later, there has been no change. Today, I sent the following message by e-mail:

To: international@beijing2008.cn, xuanchuan@beijing2008.cn, webmaster@beijing2008.cn
Subject: Weather Reporting for Olympics

Dear madam and / or sir:

A few weeks ago, I sent a message through the “suggestions” tool on BOCOG’s Web site, pointing out that Beijing’s temperature and wind speed, as given on (http ://en.beijing2008.cn/), are shown ONLY in degrees Fahrenheit and miles per hour. I asked that the information also be presented using degrees Celsius and kilometres per hour, in the interests of the many English speakers unfamiliar with Fahrenheit and miles. To date, I have seen no response to my message, and there have been no changes to the site. I am sending this message in the hopes that it might be more successful than a Web-based form.

As the United States is the only country left in the world that persists in using Fahrenheit as a temperature scale, the exclusive use of Fahrenheit and miles per hour is both confusing and annoying to those of us who have adopted the metric system. Consider:

English is the primary language in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Guyana, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jersey, Montserrat, Nauru, New Zealand, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United Kingdom.

None of these countries and territories uses the units you have chosen in any official capacity. Only the United States does so. To use only Fahrenheit and miles per hour on your site, therefore, is to implicitly suggest that all English speakers are Americans. While I take no issue with America as a country, and indeed count many Americans among my close friends, this is an affront to the national sensibilities of all non-American, English-speaking countries.

I hope that in the spirit of international co-operation and friendship, you will fix this issue on your site. We may have “One World, One Dream,” but not all English speakers use “One System of Measurement.”

Thank you for your time, and I wish you all the best in helping to make the Beijing Olympics a great success!

Warm regards,

Andrew Galbraith

I am eager to hear back from them, and hope I can get the metric system up there before the Games start. 358 days left!

Edit: I’m aware that my statement that “none of these countries uses Fahrenheit and mph” is overstating the case somewhat… that’s only really true regarding Fahrenheit. I believe the point still stands.

Update: international@beijing2008.cn has bounced my message back. Apparently, it doesn’t actually exist, despite being listed on BOCOG’s site.


3 thoughts on “A letter to BOCOG”

  1. how are you these years? where are you working now?
    may i ask if you often use”centigrade”and ” meters”? i like these measurement cos i have no concept on Fahenheit and miles….
    Best wishes.

  2. Hello,

    Chinese see things that way: Celsius is Chinese, Fahrenheit is foreign. It’s plainly wrong and even makes no sense at all, but that’s how Chinese think. Actually the way many Chinese think, especially “lingdao”, regarding what is outside of China, makes truly no sense at all.

    For Chinese, English is the official language of “America” (that’s how they call the US in English, I guess they learnt that from Americans themselves), and probably of some other countries, which do not matter much, even if these countries are the UK or Australia or Canada.

    Believe it or not, the very first days they even put Fahrenheit in the French version. I can challenge anyone on this planet to find a French-speaking person (including Africa and wherever French is spoken) for whom Fahrenheit measurements will make any sense at all. Myself I have no idea what it means when I see these funky 74F thingies, how much that makes in normal human measurements. Much had to be said until it was changed, and believe me or not, this shit on this website is manual and has to be changed manually every morning. Huh. You’d expect they make some applet to get that from somewhere, and big cloud without rain changes by itself to the big cloud with rain and back to the big cloud without rain the following day, but huh, no, all this shit is MANUAL. Every morning the editor has to change the weather to the official source, which is :

    There was somewhat a debate raised after the French version change, in which these questions were asked:
    “What about that bunch of English-speaking countries, what measurements does it use?” [This dialogue was in Chinese, English-speaking countries is plural in English, in the original version they talked about ‘yingyu guojia’]
    “Well, it [America] uses Fahrenheit.”
    “Put it in Fahrenheit then.”

    Plurality? What, wait, no, this is China.
    About the emails, given that xuanchuan@beijing2008.cn and webmaster@beijing2008.cn are actually received by the Propaganda department in BOCOG (“Media and Communication”), they often forget to transfer, or do not understand messages in English (seriously), or do not even read them (very certainly the case here), anyway this never gets into the end of the website editorial department. More interesting is that the email of this website editorial department is an internal mail that should not be divulgated as they shall not receive directly information from the outside (go figure why).
    My advice? You wrote a long nice mail, send it again and again to xuanchuan@ and webmaster@. I’ll report that international@ doesn’t work and see if anything is done (I doubt).
    If you can have someone help you to translate it into Chinese, please do, that will be helpful. Some do understand English, but all are challenged by mails that are as long as yours. Or make it shorter.

  3. Thanks very much for your comment, J! I realise that the letter is a bit over-the-top and might not be easily understood. It was originally written as something of a joke, but I’m getting more serious about this by the day. I’ll work on a simpler version, and may even get it translated. I take it from your message that you actually work at or with BOCOG?

    xiaoqiu, good to hear from you again… hope you’re well. I’m still working in Shanghai. As for your question, I only use Celsius and meters. Because I’m not American, I don’t understand miles and Fahrenheit either!

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