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.
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