Last night on the news, I saw a story on the Olympics which mentioned that the International Olympic Committee, has stated that any athlete who makes any sort of political statement from the podium in Beijing will be sent home. It seems they don't want China to be embarrassed in any way. Not about Tibet, not about Darfur, not about anything.
You may say to yourself that that sounds reasonable since the Olympics aren't supposed to be political. However, I'd say that the Olympics being nonpolitical is the farthest thing from the truth. The Olympics are extremely political, no matter what any individual athlete may or may not do.
The simple fact is the Chinese government is using the Games to legitimize its illegitimate dictatorship, both in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of its own people: "Hey, look what we can do. We're not such a bad government after all, are we? Look at the big show we're putting on."
There's simply no denying that this is the Party's big party. The Communist Dictatorship of the Proletariat (or of the rice farmers or whatever) is reaching its pinnacle and these great Olympic Games will finally show the world just how glorious that dictatorship really is.
And if everyone could just forget for the moment that the Chinese government's rule is, in fact, completely illegitimate--that no one ever elected any of these self-serving corrupt buffoons and that they remain in power only through force and intimidation, no different than in Burma or North Korea--well, that'd be much appreciated.
It would also be extremely helpful if no one mentioned the killing and repression in Tibet or anything at all about the Chinese-armed and -backed states of Burma, Sudan, and North Korea, which, somewhat embarrassingly for their sponsors in Beijing, keep on slaughtering and horrifically repressing their own people. It should be noted, however, that no matter how embarrassing that horrific repression and slaughter may be, China will always be there to veto any and all attempted action by the U.N. Security Council.
I understand why most people don't support a full Olympic boycott, since that'd be unfair to the athletes, who've spent their whole lives training for this. However, I find it more than just a little ridiculous that the IOC thinks it must protect a tyrannical regime from embarrassment. I'd say it's hardly the IOC's business whether or not athletes express solidarity with oppressed peoples in places such as Tibet, Darfur and Burma... or China, for that matter.
I mean, why does the IOC care if someone waves a Tibetan flag from the podium?
Well, there are those billions of dollars in revenue, of course. That may have something to do with it.
Can you imagine if an athlete had made an explicit anti-Nazi statement from the podium in Berlin back in 1936? Man, would that ever have wrecked the whole show Hitler was putting on.
Seriously, can you imagine how horrible it would have been had anyone been so rude and inconsiderate as to dare embarrass those poor Nazis? It would have been so tragic, especially after all the work they'd put into preparing for those oh-so-unpolitical games? Thank God no one did anything inappropriate, and the IOC didn't have to punish any of the athletes for any inexcusable behaviour.
Let's just hope that all morality can once again be suppressed in Beijing as well.
Come on people, really now, lighten up. Slaughter, repression, genocide, these things are irrelevant. There's a sporting festival to be held and billions in advertising revenues to be made. Let the Games begin!
Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.