Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Olympics Politicized

I remember some years ago, when China won the right to hold the Olympics in what seemed like a very far-off 2008, thinking that it was fantastic that we were finally at a point where China could hold an Olympic Games.

I'm very sad to see the level of protesting that's going on in San Francisco in advance of the Games. Today they had to make the torch "disappear" into a waiting safe truck and had it reappear later in the day somewhere across town because of scuffles breaking out between police and protesters.

I'm all for peaceably protesting just about anything, whether it's clean air, the war, or human rights.

While I support the protesters' goals (assuming it's peace and human rights their after, not something less meaningful, like air time), I feel we should all support the athletes going to Beijing, and competing there.

We can only lead by example. And first we have to BE that example before we expect other people to be like us.

And that takes not making any human rights violations ourselves, whether it's torturing (or splitting hairs over what IS torture), or unlawfully and/or immorally detaining the thousands of souls at Guantanamo Bay.

How on Earth can we say "Do as I say, not as I do?"

Shame on us.

Furthermore, making the athletes involved in the transportation of the torch feel unsafe enough that they have to take such precautionary measures diminishes the very message that I believe the protesters are trying to make.

Add to that the very fact that after we banned the 1980 Games in Moscow, this discussion has already been asked and answered: Most people saw it as a shame that we politicized the Games and skipped them, instead of using it as a vehicle towards peace that it was meant to be.

I had a friend in college who missed the Games that year. She was ranked third in the nation at gymnastics at the time and therefore most certainly would have competed in Moscow, and was the perfect age. By 1984, she was in college and too old to compete.

I remember very well her saying how sad she was to not be able to go. As you can imagine, athletes are not thinking about George W. Bush while they practice on the balance beam (or surely they would fall off!), and they're not thinking about whether or not another Tienanmen Square incident is going on in China while they do their floor exercises.

The fact is, athletes, like musicians, are artists of their particular craft, and honestly just want the opportunity to represent their country and compete.

And we should allow them to do that.

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