China’s attempt to protect itself from a boycott of the Olympics by crying Don’t make the Games political is ludicrous. As David Wallechinsky pointed out in an interview on NPR yesterday, they already are political. It is the nature of a world event to be political. Wallechinsky, author of The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, is an expert on the Games. Interestingly, he also compiles the top ten list of the world’s worst dictators for Parade every year.
Wallechinsky says the Olympic Committee is to blame for giving the Games to a dictatorship in the first place. Yeah, hello.
If anybody is to be held responsible for ruining the Olympics, it’s not the Tibetans or those who will boycott China for its treatment of them (not to mention the Sudanese; not to mention Chinese citizens; not to mention China’s support of Burma). How about laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Chinese government for its behavior, and then pointing a finger at the IOC for supporting a brutal dictatorship?
Hu Jintao, leader of The People’s Republic of China, and number four on the worst dictators list, has befriended number one, Omar al-Bashir, of Sudan. How cozy.
“Last week China’s leader, Hu Jintao, provided Sudan with an interest-free loan to build a presidential palace. With that gesture, Hu demonstrated his contempt for the Western understanding of the world — and for Western policy toward his own country.” And: “China is not financing a presidential palace by mistake; it is doing so deliberately. It is not financing just any presidential palace; it has chosen a president so odious that his fellow African leaders hold their noses at him.”*
Birds of a feather. . . .
1.) Omar al-Bashir, Sudan
2.) Kim Jong-il, North Korea
3.) Sayyid Ali KhamEnei, Iran
4.) Hu Jintao, China
5.) King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia
6.) Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar)
7) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
8.) Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan
9.) Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya
10.) Bashar al-Assad, Syria
Olympic Boycotts** (take special note of number three, below—I thought the PRC didn’t believe in making the Games political?—oh, guess that was then)
1956, Melbourne: Boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union. Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the games over the Suez Crisis.
1972 and 1976, Munich, Montreal: African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, asking it to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976. Twenty-two countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was not banned.
1976, Montreal: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) pressured Canada to bar the Taiwanese team from competing under the name Republic of China (ROC). The ROC refused the compromise that was suggested and did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name “Chinese Taipei.”
1980, 1984, Moscow, Los Angeles: Cold War opponents boycotted one anothers’ games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott reduced the number of competing nations to 81, the lowest number since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 Eastern Bloc nations (except Romania) countered by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
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See this BBC article about current protests by Tibetan children in Katmandu
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* Sebastian Mallaby, February 5, 2007, The Washington Post