Pouring water on the Flame

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics have become a joke. Despite the attempts of China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to minimize the impact of the protests following the torch relay—or point to parallels with the 1980 and 1984 boycotts—the reality is that there has never been this much opposition to a particular country hosting the Olympic Games as there is with China.

The Olympic torch is extinguished during its travels through Paris. (Photo courtesy of the National Post)

So is it fair or not? Is it true, like China keeps asserting, that the Olympics is purely a sporting event and that politics should be kept out of it; or do the protesters have it right? Should China be subjected to widespread criticism and protest because of their horrid human rights record?

Personally, I believe the latter argument.

The fact is that ever since the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre, China has been on the losing end of a major public relations crisis. And for the most part, they have never cared. That’s because they have never needed to. With countries like Canada and the U.S. bending over backward just to keep the Asian giant a favored trading partner, China has held all the aces against its North American counterparts—despite the rhetoric we seem to constantly hear from Canadian and U.S. officials about having a “positive dialogue on human rights” with Chinese officials.

And that’s the problem. It’s been complete rhetoric from the start. The reality is that politics has always been a part of the Olympics. How else did Beijing—one of the world’s most polluted cities—win the coveted sporting event? There were other cities who wanted the Games and had never hosted them before. Those cities were also willing to build the needed infrastructure to win the Olympics; and like China, believed that hosting the Games would have a positive impact on form them and their residents.

It was only by playing the political card and promising the IOC that hosting the Olympics would be “a catalyst for social change” that China beat out its competitors. And we are beginning to see what a boldly successful lie that was.

Because now, as IOC president Jacques Rogge, politely encourages Chinese leaders to “fulfill their moral pledges”, he is being equally as kindly told to “mind his own business.” Ouch! Guess that must smart!

So, it’s pretty fair to say that the IOC has only itself to blame. Their carefully calculated decision to award China the Olympic Games (over more worthy recipients) and potentially spur some sort of social revolution has been ground into the dust; along with the support and goodwill the Games normally enjoy.

And though one should feel bad that the athletes who have trained for years to attend these Games must now compete under the glare from human rights protesters; similarly China should learn a strong lesson from this; that invariably they are not immune to world criticism and despite the carefully crafted message they force feed their populace, this 2008 Beijing Olympics will never represent what the real Olympic Games and spirit is truly about.

Of course, if none of that makes any difference to them, then perhaps this should–what are their future chances of scoring another world sporting event? Well, if the dramatically shortened and disastrous torch relay; the possible call to boycott the Games by world leaders, athletes and coaches; and the scorn and criticism from millions of people around the world is any indication; no international sporting body—in its right mind—will likely ever choose China as the host for another event.

So, enjoy the 2008 Summer Olympics while you can, China. I think you’ve done a marvelous job in taking one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and making it into the biggest joke ever.

But then again it doesn’t seem like anyone is laughing.

(Photo courtesy of The National Post)


One Response

  1. The Olympic games at their core are supposed to be about excellence and showcasing the hard work of athletes and the nations they represent. It’s too bad that they’ve been used as political tools for so long, and there is so much corruption within the bureaucracy behind the Olympic games.

    I don’t think China can take all of the credit for making a joke of the Olypics.. Just the 2008 event.

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