Thursday, April 10, 2008

A World At-One-Ment

Yesterday, the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco for it's only appearance in the United States as it makes its way around the world before the torch relay arrives in the host country of China in a couple months. It has been the most protest-inspiring relay in history, already setting off groups of protesters in Paris and London.

What is going on in our world?

When I hear about mass protests of people, I'm inspired by the idea that we truly live in revolutionary times. I'm happy to see people show up to make a scene and to protest China about everything from their support of evil regimes in Sudan and Burma, to the crackdown in Tibet, to human rights violations, and to a lesser degree, the deadly or dangerous products it exports to the United States.

China should not be let off the hook. They have desperately sought the games since the bid for the 2000 Olympics, in which they promised "a more open China awaits the 2000 Olympics." The International Olympic Committee made the right choice when it selected Sydney, Australia to host the first games of the second millennium. It truly was the greatest Olympic games ever, starting with the brilliant design for the lighting the Olympic cauldron (using water) and the selection of an Aboriginal athlete to light it.

Now it's Beijing's turn to showcase their country through these games. Ever since the Berlin Olympics in 1936, when Hitler used the Olympics to show off the "supremacy of the Aryan race" and the technological wonder that was Germany (which was the most technologically advanced nation at the time), the host nation has seen a propaganda value in the Olympics. Don't think so? Well, what about the way our country paraded the American flag that was at the World Trade Center on 9/11 into the Olympic stadium at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympiad in Salt Lake City? We were essentially rubbing the memory of our biggest tragedy in the faces of the rest of the world and it was obscene. It has no place in the Olympics. In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, a controversy ensued when the Atlanta Olympic Committee banned the Georgia state flag from any stadium or athletic event. Many feared that it would embarrass the organizers, the state, and our country when all these bubbas proudly waved the state flag which had the Confederate battle emblem on it. But it was the right decision, because the Olympics are an international event, not a state-level event. When I attended a few events, the only flag I waved was the South African one (for the UK v. South Africa field hockey game).

The wrong thing to do is boycott the Olympics like our nation did in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I consider it to be President Carter's worst decision as president. He only punished athletes who dream of participating in what is perhaps the greatest athletic competition of their lives. For many, it's their one shot at glory. And even those who don't win anything, just to be a part of the experience is amazing. I only experienced it from a spectator's perspective, but even that was still amazing. So, let the games go on! I do have to admit though that I was actually glad that the communist countries boycotted the Los Angeles games in 1984. It made it better for our country to win more events.

So, even though China is a country that is a major threat to peace, the Olympics should be allowed to go on. Let them put on the show for the rest of the world. However, that doesn't mean that we should let them off the hook. I hope that during the entire time of the Olympics in August, that people around the world will continue to participate in mass protests to raise awareness for Darfur, Burma, and Tibet. We mustn't let the leaders of China sleep well at night. We should be the face of conscience, raising a joyful rabble to remind those in power that in spite of the good will the games are meant to foster, that the people of the world won't be distracted by athletic competition from the reality of the world. The Chinese government's pageantry can't erase the truth of supporting genocide in Darfur and suppression of Buddhist monks in Burma and Tibet. The world is watching.

Anyone who believes nations should boycott should consider this: The single greatest Olympic moment ever was when American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Granted, our country was nowhere near perfect, since Jesse Owens would have been told to sit in the back of the bus in the South despite his gold medals...but imagine what went through Hitler's mind when a black man beat his beloved aryan athletes at a games meant to showcase the superiority of the German race and culture. That's a priceless image to remember for the ages.

I hope that China will be similarily embarrassed by some event at their own Olympic games. The Chinese consider it a curse to wish someone "May you live in interesting times." Well, China..."May you host an interesting Olympics!" Remember...the world is watching.

Free Tibet!

End the genocide in Darfur.

Liberate Burma and force the military junta to honour the 1990 election results.

Most of all, don't be a rat this year!

1 comment:

Mandalynn said...

I love the Olympics so I naturally agree that U.S. should still participate in the Olympics. I understand why people want to protest the games (I have serious objections to China's human rights violations - but I also have objections to ours), but I was sad to see people trying to put out the torch's flame. The Olympics are about bringing countries together in peace - I think putting out the flame that represents that is wrong.