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Boycott the Olympics

From here in Chesapeake Country, we can be heard around the world

Despite the criticism, it appears that most sponsors have made the decision to refrain from criticizing Beijing rather than risk angering the Chinese government, gateway to the voracious consumers in the world’s fastest growing economy.

–Reporter Mei Fong: The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2008

Beijing is on the other side of the world from here, so you might ask what possible reason could the goings on thereabouts have of interest to the folks in Anne Arundel County? Methinks much.

Comes August, via the magic of television, Beijing and the Olympics will come right into our homes if we want. That is the question of the week: Do we want? TV is an awesome member of the media. In 2006, soccer’s World Cup final in Germany was watched by 715 million viewers worldwide. Talk is the opening ceremonies in Beijing could be watched by a billion.

I won’t be among them, that’s for sure. Moreover, I hope the powers that be in Beijing have to bus in Chinese citizens to fill the seats for the opening ceremonies.

Déjà Vu to ’36

As this year’s big show approaches, I feel for the athletes worldwide who for years have trained and practiced for the 2008 Olympics and who, like sponsors, are caught in the middle of what just might be the biggest show of arrogance since Adolph Hitler stained the worldwide competitions in Berlin in ’36.

Adolph got his comeuppance when black American Jesse Owens stole much of the show; Jesse wasn’t what the dictator of three years considered a candidate for the Master Race, which Hitler went to war to achieve in a vain but costly try three years later. The International Olympic Committee had threatened to pull the big games from Berlin; it didn’t want the games to be used as a platform for boosting the ideology of the runt with the thin mustache and droopy hair.

But the games went on.

It’s Either Or

In recent weeks, more than a few Anne Arundel County residents I’ve chatted with admit being in a dilemma. All strongly object to China’s human rights history and are more than upset with recent events involving the monks and others of Tibet, which was invaded and occupied by China. But they want to see the Olympics — while somehow sending their message to China. Sorry. Methinks you can’t do both.

The Olympics returned in 1896 in a modern format to boost accord among nations and spectacular sports and sportsmanship, which sounds hunky-dory. That’s the excuse some will use to watch the games. They like the non-international political concept. And that’s what it is: a concept. It is not a practice.

To get down to the realistic nitty-gritty, what we have here this year is the question of what is most important: men and women playing games — or making a stand on the issue of human rights. It’s a question of one’s conscience. Do we play along with China’s tainted bid for world prominence and glory and watch the Olympics? Or do we ignore it with a thanks, but no thanks?

Do we support a virtual dictatorship’s quest for recognition, appreciation and esteem — when its leaders lie, kill, maim and deny personal freedom to its own citizens as well as those of conquered lands? If you know the answer, it’s not a question.

Caught in the Middle

Caught in the middle are the athletes. They have much invested in the 2008 Olympics, their chance to convince the world of their prowess. They face the biggest dilemma of all — and it’s not easy to blame any and/or all if they, as George W. Bush would say, “stay the course.”

Corporate sponsors have no choice but to stay the course. They have hundreds of millions already invested in this year’s Olympics. What’s more, companies like Coca Cola (with 38 factories already in China), Adidas, McDonald’s, Volkswagen and such are already doing big business in China and have plans to do much more. They are really in a pickle; what can they do? Dealing with government officials in the land where the games will be held is not like dealing with those in traditionally free and developed nations.

Virtually on a whim, Chinese officials could crack down on them if they make any comments deemed undesirable by a super-sensitive government. Under the way China operates they could be sent shipping. Also, with the citizens of China who glory in their country’s hosting the games, any indication that a foreign nation is not fully in their corner would mean immeasurable loss in market share — with the expected stirring of the pot by the government.

Already there have been boycotts by Chinese citizens of a couple of European firms’ products. Why? Because they or their nations have expressed support for Tibet.

Play with China, and the field is not level. Yet the sponsors have to justify their non-action to their consumers in free nations who question their stay-the-course route. It’s a lose-lose situation.

My Course

Who’s left? You and I, that’s who. President Bush, who’s still on the stay-the-course route, should not attend. Neither should the heads of other free nations. By attending, they are adding legitimacy to a country that stomps on human rights.

There’s nothing the government of China can do to you and me. Yet we can do something to let the world know of our deep appreciation of freedom and our disgust for those intent on stomping it out. We can boycott the Olympics — even if there’s nothing else on TV than the reruns of Gilligan’s Island. Enough said.

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