Owen  Lloyd

Depressingly, the Hangzhou 2022 Main Media Centre marks the site where I have received the most female attention in my life.

You may have visions of myself and colleague Geoff Berkeley striding into the press palace in slow motion with explosions in our wake.

Heads turning as the bad boys of journalism rock up to cover the latest race walk thriller.

Sadly, that could not be further from the truth, for me at least, Geoff is like a Coventry Clark Kent.

Following an intense Opening Ceremony that has us bashing away at our keyboards for three hours straight as we strive to provide that best live coverage possible, we are inundated with interest from Chinese media.

Journalists are approaching us left, right, and centre, surprisingly not for our numbers, but our thoughts on the curtain-raiser for China's third hosting of the Asian Games.

It is relentless and one poor reporter was blasted by Berkeley for daring to ask him during an intense period towards the end of the Ceremony.

Eventually we give in and hop on board the propaganda bandwagon.

It is clear to see that they are just trying to promote the Games and having foreigners say nice things about it will go down swimmingly with the powers that be.

In fairness, the Ceremony was pretty spectacular so it didn't feel completely disingenuous to speak positively about it.

Just so long as we don't have to mention the horrendous "Heart to heart, @Future" slogan of the Games. 

Hangzhou's beautiful Gongchen Bridge and the 5,000-year-old ancient city of Liangzhu were just some of the main features of the event that ditched traditional elements like fireworks for impressive light displays.

There was even a massive digital torchbearer, so lots to talk about to our hosts.

After successfully spouting some drivel to China Daily, our work is done for a big first night at the Games.

The following morning, after a solid four hours of sleep, we arrive bright-eyed and eager to get stuck into the sporting action.

We figured that all the fanfare around us foreigners would come to a close along with the end of the Ceremony.

How wrong we were.

They are relentless, but we've mastered the art of politely turning down the likes of Xinhua and CGTN after pledging allegiance to China Daily.

Somehow we have featured twice on the latter's social media channels, and have made friends out of it so got to give credit where it's due for its icebreaking potential.

Another positive is how indirectly motivational they all are.

If you lean back or look away from your laptop for a second, they will pounce on you and give you a scornful look when you say you're too busy.

On a more sinister note, the potential to have your words twisted is all too real.

A video was released on from news account Yellow River Story showing interviews from foreign journalists at the media centre.

Their English responses have received the voiceover treatment with Mandarin layered on top of the answers.

While in this case it looks as if the translation is mostly faithful to the original words, it offers a worrying sign of how easy it would be to doctor them.

The Unites States Government claims that China manipulates global media through censorship, data harvesting and secret purchases of foreign news outlets according to a report released last month.

It warned that the trend could lead to a decrease of freedom of speech.

The report alleged that Beijing had spent billions of dollars annually on information manipulation efforts. 

Chenchen, left, is one of Hangzhou 2022's mascots that will exchange gifts for compliments ©Getty Images
Chenchen, left, is one of Hangzhou 2022's mascots that will exchange gifts for compliments ©Getty Images

These include acquiring stakes in foreign media, sponsoring online influencers, and securing distribution agreements that promote unlabelled Chinese Government content.

The report claimed these efforts "had enabled Beijing to fine-tune global censorship by targeting specific individuals and organisations."

"Unchecked, Beijing’s efforts could result in a sharp contraction of global freedom of expression."

Whether Geoff and I decide to become shills for Xi remains to be seen, although a few mooncakes thrown in could seal the deal.

I have also accepted a limited-edition pin badge in exchange for saying nice things about Chenchen, one of the Games cheeky mascots. 

God knows what he is capable of if you write something unfavourable in the book.

Aside from swatting away interview requests (now I know how people feel when I contact them), life is pleasant at Hangzhou 2022.

The Games are brilliantly organised, everything runs on time, the WiFi is flawless in every venue, and there's an all-you-can-eat KFC for less than £2!

Hangzhou is further proof that China has near unlimited potential to keep staging mega-events, and therefore an even bigger rug for it to sweep its issues under.