Over the past weeks, more and more attention has been given to the upcoming Summer Olympics and their host.
Protesters have broken up the torch relay in dozens of cities around the world in action against Chinese human rights violations in Tibet. While the relay and the Olympics are both seen as unifiers, this year, the games seem to be a greater symbol of international relations than ever.
Many people are outraged by activists moving to disrupt an ancient ritual of multicultural cooperation. While the fire from Mount Olympus had divine connotations in the original Olympic Games, the torch relay has a scarred legacy.
The first torch relay was held by Nazi Germany in the 1936 games. The flame was used as a propaganda tool to add myth and mystique to Hitler’s regime. Hitler himself believed the link to the ancient tournament would illustrate his belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the Third Reich. The relay today can be seen as an ominous link between Chinese aggression and Nazi abuses.
But when we leave behind history and look only at the present situation, is it fair to use the Olympics as a sounding board when the country hosting them has committed flagrant abuses?
The protests in Paris, London, and San Francisco all focused on the Chinese crackdown in Tibet but others decided to protest China’s fur trade. Still others decided to show up to the spectacle in support of the country’s government.
While all this puts a blight on the spirit of the Olympics, it does provide China with some much needed criticism of its internal affairs. Even the president of the International Olympic Committee called upon the country’s officials to improve human rights and provide more open information for media in China.
The Olympics are more politicized than ever. The possibility of a boycott of the games hangs overhead. The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow were boycotted by
64 countries, including the United States in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The aggression in Tibet has been more highly publicized and the Chinese presence there has long been a sore subject, therefore more countries might be open to shunning the games.
The issue is much more complex than the polarized world made by the 1980 games. First off, nobody wants to offend the holder of the largest population on earth, especially if it has means of production. Secondly, China refuses to admit it has committed atrocities in the first place. And third, the whole world is paying attention.
With the combination of publicity, stubbornness and fear, nothing will be done to help the Tibetan people to liberate themselves. In order for the Olympic spirit of international brotherhood to ring clear in the upcoming games, China needs to yield itself to criticism and admit its mistakes while the rest of the world needs to buck up and help an oppressed group of people.
If the world were perfect, we would be able to leave politics out of the Olympic Games. We would be able to put aside our differences and just watch each other pole vault. But, there is no such thing as perfect, so we just have to make do.