Monday, April 07, 2008

China's Olympics

Let's take a quick break from economic issues and talk about something fun: sport.

The Summer Olympics, hosted by America's number 1 creditor in terms of new loans, will be underway soon. The Chinese government had an opportunity, with the awarding of the Olympics, to take big steps away from totalitarianism. Unfortunately, they chose to go the wrong way. Politicians around the world see China as "too big to irritate," and so are falling over themselves to excuse the Chinese government. Happily, non-politicians in London, Paris, and soon -
San Francisco
- differ.

This is more important than it might seem. China is a model around the world for those who like the idea of strong economic growth and tight political control. Given the behavior of the Chinese government, at this point it would be good to see China humiliated by a failed Olympics (although a shame to see athletes keeling over from air pollution, and reporters arrested for reporting on things other than what the Chinese stage-managers offer.)

There is the argument, of course, that "sport and politics should be kept separate." In other words, "when we are playing, please don’t bother us with the news that our host is systematically torturing and murdering people and that our acquiescence furthers this." Ugh.

I’m also enjoying the argument that it’s a shame to spoil the beauty of the torch run with protests, since "[t]he Olympic torch is a symbol of sport and a symbol of cooperation between nations," as Lord Coe, organizer of the 2012 Olympics, puts it. Yes, what a shame to mar this beautiful tradition.

Of course, we've not gotten away from economic issues at all. Noted advocate of freedom and democracy George W. "Cheap loans from China will cover the deficit" Bush plans to attend the Olympics, including the opening ceremonies, which many suggest boycotting as a protest. And now that New Zealand has negotiated a free trade deal with China, PM Helen Clark is speaking out boldly on the importance of separating sport from mere individual rights.

If Western governments find the Chinese government's behavior acceptable, it is all the more important that citizens around the world keep freedom and sport together, and protest the Blood Olympics.

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