Beijing Summer Olympics not about political boycotts

Derek Thurber

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Once every two years almost all of the nations of the world meet in a competition of strategy, skill and expertise in sports: this is a time-honored event that has been defiled by the web of international politics. It is not the place of the nations of the world to boycott the Olympics for political reasons. That is not the purpose of the Olympics.

The strategy of boycotting the Olympics started in 1980 when the United States refused to participate in the Moscow Olympics. This was caused by the cold war but it was an unfounded act of political pouting.

This was followed by the 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A. which were boycotted by 14 countries, led by the Soviet Union. Though this was a deliberate political response to the U.S. boycott in 1980, it more closely resembled an act of a sibling trying to get the last act against his brother in a dispute than two nations locked in a worldwide struggle for dominance.

Now the political pouting has recommenced in the 21st century with the Beijing Olympics this summer. It all started when Steven Spielberg backed out as special effects director because of human rights violations. Spielberg is right to be mad about the human rights violations of China; he is right to want to protest against these violations; his is not, however, right for turning the Olympics: a non-political, worldwide event: into a protest against a specific country that happens to be hosting it.

So China has done some terrible things: I agree. The Olympics do not have anything to do with these things and they are not sources of reflection on a particular country when they are hosted there.

Then China attacked protestors in Tibet, and the whole issue broke open like a terrible, festering, untreated wound. All of the major nations of the world have spoken out against what China has done, but at least the U.S., Russia, the U.K. and others stopped just short of threatening to boycott the upcoming Olympics, which are conveniently at the same time as these problems: or at least convenient for France, who has threatened to boycott the Olympics.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened last week to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics as punishment for what China has done to Tibet.

“Our Chinese friends must understand the worldwide concern that there is about the question of Tibet, and I will adapt my response to the evolutions in the situation that will come, I hope, as rapidly as possible,” Sarkozy said.

If Sarkozy truly cared about the “worldwide concern” he would not boycott one of the few events at which the whole worldwide community participates as one. If anything, the Olympics should be a time to set aside the sword of anger that we harbor against each other and meet as nations working for a single end.

The Olympics are not the place to take out political frustration. Leave that to the rest of the time. For the short period of the Olympics the world should come together in peace. These few days are symbol: or should be a symbol: of humanity’s ability to set aside our differences and compete in games. So, let’s leave the politics to the politics and the Olympics to the Olympics and all meet in peace at the upcoming summer games in Beijing.

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