'Historic day' for Dublin's Chinese


Local Chinese head to Capel Street for a party laden with flags, food and great expectations

THE SPECTACLE, fireworks and fanfare of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games may have taken place thousands of miles from Ireland yesterday, but for Dublin's Chinese population the event generated a real connection with home.

Flags, friendship and a buffet of traditional cuisine were the order of the day as over 100 members of the Chinese community, as well as a host of friends from elsewhere, gathered in the Melody Bar and Restaurant on Capel Street to mark the event in style.

Men, women and children packed the small venue to capacity as they waited for their chance to witness the spectacular ceremony."This is a really big occasion. It's like a special festival for the Chinese people," said Sunnie Sun, a Chinese businesswoman who has been living in Dublin for eight years.

"I know a lot of people did not go to work and others took the day off school so they could enjoy these celebrations. We have invited people from China, Ireland and other countries to take part in this special day," she said.

One of the Irish guests who joined in on the celebrations was Dublin Central Fianna Fáil TD Cyprian Brady. "It's a really historic day for China and its people dotted throughout the world," he said.

"It has given the Chinese community here in Dublin a great opportunity to show off their interest and their commitment to their home country, which is great because it is extremely important for them to keep their connections to China."

As the opening ceremony approached there was no holding back among the revellers and a countdown resembling New Year, as well as a boisterous rendition of the Chinese national anthem, rocked the Melody Bar.

"This is a very significant day as it is the day that China changed," said Frank Suo of the Dublin-based Chinese newspaper The Shining Emerald Isle.

"It symbolises the opening of Chinese society to the rest of the world and it really was closed up for too long a time . . . these games symbolise that we are becoming a modern democratic society that is changing," he said.

Protests marred the Olympic torch's long journey from Olympia to Beijing, with the nation's human rights records, environmental issues and media freedom heavily questioned by the public and the western media.

Mr Suo acknowledged that problems exist in the "complicated country", but said issues were bound to occur in a country with a population of 1.3 billion and an array of diverse and often conflicting cultures.

He said he hoped the staging of the Olympics would help to show China was now ready and happy to greet the rest of the world. "China has its problems, but so does almost every country. Even a small country like Ireland has human rights problems with these [rendition] flights thought to be coming through Shannon airport," Mr Suo said.

"The people of China want to leave these problems behind and establish China as an open society again."

The world will watch the drama of the Olympic Games over the next 16 days, but it is unlikely anyone will follow the event quite as closely as the Chinese abroad.