15 February 2008

Spielberg, China, and the Olympics

I know that I'm pretty much alone in my protest of the Chinese Olympics. And I must admit that I am appreciative of China's support, limited though it may be, of peacekeeping operations in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

But I point your attention towards this.

Defenders of the Beijing Olympics state that we must be careful to place a divide between sports and politics, that the Olympic games are about competition, not international relations. Which is why the US and the USSR took turns boycotting games. And why the 1980 Miracle on Ice was such a big deal. And why nations and regimes use the Olympics as a display of their power. Because above all, we are very careful to separate our national teams from politics.

This quote, in particular, disgusts me: "'Sports is too important. It is too important to use it as a political instrument,' said Milan Zver, the sports minister of Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency."

Sports are too important - more important than human lives. More important than making a point about natural rights. More important than those ideals which we in the West hold so dear?

Mr. Zver also said that the Olympics are not a good place to discuss politics - and under Olympic rules, it is true that athletes aren't allowed to discuss politics within within "Olympic zones." But I want to know, if the Olympics are all about coming together and putting differences aside, if the Olympics are signs of hope and reconciliation, then shouldn't they be the perfect place lobby for human rights?

China is using the Beijing Olympics as a tool to elevate its status as a world power. And after all, who can blame them? Hosting an international competition is a great way to get publicity. But why do we not play the same game? Large nations boycotting the games (or individuals boycotting the corporations that sponsor the games) would send a clear message to China: if you want to be an international superpower, than it's time to clean up your act.

Rock on.

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