08 April 2008

"Why is it OK to even consider sacrificing athletes' dreams on behalf of making a statement?"

So asks Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt.

The real question is how much would you give to take a stand for human rights? Is personal glory really worth the cost of human rights and dignity?

I've heard three main arguments against boycotting the Olympics.

1. We should not forfeit our athletes' opportunity to shine. Sports and politics don't mix.
As asked above, should we pay for our gold medals in human suffering? Are fame and glory worth giving up the opportunity to do something truly meaningful? Unfortunately, Americans usually answer yest to those questions. And again, I remind you, my faithful readers (ok, who am I kidding - reader), that the US has a history of boycotting competitions to make political points. The best example is the Moscow Olympics. Sixty-two nations followed our lead. The favor was returned in 1984, with fourteen nations following the Soviet Union's lead. UN sanctions led to boycotts of games in Yugoslavia. China had to make several promises concerning human rights to even get the 2008 games. International sporting events are inherently political. For a history of political boycotts of the Olympic games, see here and here.

2. The US is dependent on China. We can't afford to piss them off.
Yes. We get lots of products from Chinese production companies. This means that China SELLS the US lots of products. We can't afford to have China refuse to make our goods. China really can't afford to refuse to make our goods. They need us as much as wee need them. If they are angered by a boycott, they can't lose our business - to take retributive action of this sort would be a bad choice for them.

3. China wouldn't care if we boycotted. What's one nation?
The US has won more medals than any other nation. We had the most athletes at the 2004 games. A US absence would be noticeable. The hosting of the Olympic games is a chance for a nation to make its mark in the world, to say, "Hey, we're a world power!" A boycott of these games is a chance for a nation to stand up to that power, to call for responsibility. How much more, then, would it mean if the largest delegation were to boycott?

You know, I know nobody will listen to me - there's too much national pride at stake for both sides. I don't know what it would take for the US or other nations to boycott the games, and truthfully, I don't want to know. In all likelihood, it would require something significantly more tragic than the violent crackdown we're now witnessing, and I really don't want it to come to that. As for me, though, I will continue to boycott any and all sponsors of the Olympic games, until either China cleans up its act or until the games are over.

Crap, I'm going to miss Burn Notice. Oh well.

Rock on.