The Politicization of the Beijing Olympics

Olympic Torch Relay May Be Canceled


The Great Triumph of any Olympic Games is that the Olympics have always transcended politics. For a brief period, the world can watch the best athletes that have ever lived compete for the glory of sport. For those of us who watch, we can be captivated and spellbound with the grace and beauty and feats of strength and speed that the human being is capable of.

But every once in a while, the ugly specter of politics tries to usurp the peaceful respite the Olympic Games offer by using them as a stage to promote or to protesta political issue, usually associated with the host country, but not always. This year, the issue is Human Rights Violations in China.

The Chinese, to their credit have been working extremely hard to present themselves and their country in the best possible way to the world for the upcoming Olympic Games. Unfortunately, you can't change a dragon overnight. But to be fair, the Chinese have made great leaps and bounds since the 1950s, and drastic change does not happen overnight. Barack Obama's recent speech concerning race relations in the United States demonstrates that even we still have a long way to go. Slavery ended in 1865, but clearly, racial divides still exist in the United States. So in many ways, our protests around the world sting with a touch of hypocrisy as we struggle to put our own house in order.

That being said, security concerns for the Olympic torch's only North American stop were high Tuesday after its visit to Paris descended into chaos and activists here scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to protest China's human rights record.

Demonstrators hung banners today from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to protest China's crackdown on Tibet.

Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the committee would consider ending the international leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay because of such anti-Chinese protests.

Rogge told The Associated Press he was "deeply saddened" by violent protests in London and Paris and concerned about the upcoming torch relay in San Francisco, where activists expressed fears Monday that the torch's planned route through Tibet would lead to arrests and violent measures by Chinese officials trying to stifle dissent.

It's sad that the Olympics, which in principle, stand for the best of humanity can be used in such a way to show the worst of humanity. Rather than a shining example of what we should aspire to--the coming together of all peoples and nations and ethniciities to celebrate the glory of sport and international harmony, the games are used all too often to by interest groups in other countries to protest what they don't like about the way other countries have chosen to govern.

I say the Olympics are not an appropriate stage for protest. I say, protesters needs to focus on their own countries and make sure their own houses are in order. I say the Olympic Movement represents the best of humanity; and what I would like to see is the Olympians taking a stand against the protesters. If indeed the Olympics truly represent the best of humanity, and I believe they do, then I feel it is incumbent on all Olympians to become ambassadors for peace for tolerance. And if human rights abuses exist in China, or anti-Semitism exists in the middle east, or apartheid exists in South Africa, or hunger exists in Ethiopia--let the Olympians be the ambassadors and use their high profile status in their own countries and around the world as agents for change within their own systems of government.

It would be so much more powerful and productive if the world's champions and role models were involved in global statesmanship the way Al Gore has become involved in Global Warming. If our Olympians advocated for issues and causes only 1/10th as loudly as the protesters, our world would be a much better place.

Thanks for reading.

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Matt said...

Wow, Matt that was a fantastic post - very well written, insightful and, best of all, you make great sense. I know the athletes are at a loss as to what to do. If they get involved so many people will take it the wrong way and ostracize them, especially the media. And that could mean career suicide for them. On the other hand, athletes are human too and probably feel the same way we do but feel they cannot express themselves. They also risk being excluded from the olympics if they get involved in any political aspects because of Olympic rules and regulations against it.

It is sad that people choose such a grand event as the Olympics to further their political agendas, even if the agenda is a fair one. There is a time and place for such things, and disrupting the tradition-rich torch relay is not the right time or place.

I plan to stay on top of things, as I am sure you will, and if I need to repost something if things get out of hand I will. We should get as many people to "shout out" about this as possible. Maybe something for the May 15 "Bloggers Unite" posts. Also, you should pay a visit to my friend, Lilly's site because she just posted an article this past Thursday on the torch relay as it passed through her hometown of Canberra, Australia. She attended the relay and snapped some shots. Tell her the "Matt's" are ganging up on her. LOL

Again, great work and I'll be checking on you. Best wishes!

April 26, 2008 8:15 PM
Lilly's Life said...

I don't think there will be anyone boycotting the games somehow. Nor should they. Doubt there will be any danger for spectators or athletes in China - they are going to be on their best behaviour. They are now opening up the internet a little more too. China is a world power and just has to learn how business is done in the west. It will the hard way until it is the super power. I think they will be the super power in the next 40 years. Chinese is now taught in schools in Australia and our Prime Minister speaks fluent Chinese. For a reason. I think there is some truth that we have to clean up our own backyards in the West before we can attack communist countries. You know I still cant figure out why George Bush and his cohorts are not charged with human rights crimes for the damage they have caused through their sheer deceit and greed. Hundreds of thousands of lives killed, maimed and tormented. The American economy is going to be in recession a long time and while that does good things for our dollar it also impacts negatively internationally. Unlike you, I also happen to think McCain and Obama coming into the top job will only result in the continuation of war for many, many years, for many different reasons. McCain has it in the bag though, unfortunately. I believe no-one is ready for a woman or a black President. In terms of the athletes being Ambassadors - I tend to think they should just stick to what they do best, the same as actors, unless they believe with all their heart and soul they can make a difference and have the qualities to do so. Sport and politics should not be confused. Your blog is great and very well written. Its a diverse and eclectic mix of subjects. You know what I think we should all be looking at human rights issues closer to home. The Indians and even black Americans in the US, Aborigines in Australia etc. Anyway, good post Matt.

April 29, 2008 3:10 AM

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