Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Boycott?

So the Games of the XXIX Olympiad are officially underway. The Olympics are a happy, wonderful, if not perfectly harmonious, time of world 'peace' and camaraderie. The Olympics were brought about to be a resurrection of the ancient Greek Olympiads first recorded in 776 BC and running through about 393 A.D. Then in the 1850's (1859) the first Modern Olympics were held, aptly enough, in Greece. Up until 1920's they were just a summer sport, but then they began to hold winter sports as well. ( an interesting bit of information: an Olympiad is a series of 4 years. the summer games are held in the first year of the Olympiad and the Winter games in the third year. So 2008 is the first year of the 29th Olympiad. the 2010 winter Olympics will be in the third year of the 29th Olympiad. the 2012 summer games will be the first year of the 30th Olympiad, and so on.)
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter, along with 62 other countries (including Japan, West Germany, China, the Philippines, and Canada), decided to Boycott the Moscow summer games. They did this because of the Soviet Union's invasion and "intervention" (war) in Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter issued an ultimatum to the Soviets. Either withdraw all the Soviet troops from the country by 12:01 A.M. Eastern Standard Time on Feb. 20 1980, or the U.S. would Boycott the Olympics. Well, needless to say, those crazy, stubborn Russians didn't withdraw. So America Boycotted, and so did 62 other invited countries. Only 80 countries ended up participating in the Olympics that year. And of those 80, about 1/3 of them marched during the opening ceremonies under the Olympic flag in lieu of their countries, flew the Olympic flag at medal ceremonies in lieu of their own, and played the Olympic theme instead of their national anthems. And, although New Zealand supported the boycott, the 5 athletes from New Zealand marched under the National Olympic Committee's flag.
Now, America did this because they did not approve of what the Soviet Union was doing. Jimmy Carter had, in fact, secretly been sending aid to Anti-soviet forces in the middle east since June 1979. Both Democrats and Republicans believed that the USSR was trying to expand their borders and gain a warm-sea port, which they had none of (cause Russia is all very cold, you see.) and in addition to withdrawing the U.S./ USSR wheat trade, Jimmy also boycotted the Olympics. So you see, this was a political statement.
And despite only 80 countries competing, more world records were broken in Moscow than in the 1984 Olympics in L.A.

Personally, I think that if the athletes themselves are not in danger, and the spectators are safe, then keep Politics and the Olympics separate. Some people, however, are of the same mind as Mr. President Carter. They think that not going to a peaceful, worldwide event to compete cleanly, fairly and humanely against one another will make things better. They think that Boycotting the Olympics in Beijing will do more good for the world than bad. I think that's kind of a slap in the face to China, and if there is one country you don't want mad at you, it's China. and with the Olympics happening, if the Chinese got mad, the whole world could easily fall victim to the most famous of the classic blunders. Never get involved in a land-war in Asia. Now, I know, I know, China has alot of horrible policies and connections with Sudan and Zimbabwe, and their Tibetan conflicts. But there isn't a boycott. instead, George W. formally announced that he would go to the Opening ceremonies. After which, most other European leaders did too. and those that didn't blamed Scheduling conflicts, like Britain's Prime minister, who will be attending the Closing Ceremonies 16 days later.
John McCain and Barack Obama both said they would have boycotted the Olympics, but, to quote an article from TIME "but empty China-bashing has long been a bipartisan staple on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. Leaders in power are more mindful of China's colossal clout in an increaseingly shaky world economy, and therefore of the importance of keeping good relations with its government."
Now, Gee Dub. didn't go to China and just sit. While he was there he spoke out against it's repression of religion, of freedom of press, of freedom of assembly, of forced abortions and the one-child policy, and against the Tibetan relations.
And there was not a giant outcry for a boycott because almost all the world leaders think that "the only people that lose with an Olympic boycott are the athletes." As Former Australian Olympian John Konrads said.

AND boycotting the Olympics would just hurt the athletes. Athletes who trained their lives for these things. And why punish innocent people for what a dictator or government is doing. We wouldn't want to be punished because George Bush is 'a moron'. The people didn't do anything. to quote Paul M. Weyrich, Chairman and CEO of Free Congress Foundation: When I was active in the former Soviet Union, dissident Russians told me how excited and encouraged they were when President Ronald W. Reagan declared that they were part of an evil empire. It gave them hope and courage to soldier on. The same will be true of the President’s tough stance before landing at Beijing. Of course, China’s reaction was to be expected. The Chinese Government told Bush not to meddle in its internal affairs. Bush has promised to raise these issues privately when he meets with China’s leaders following the opening of the Olympic Games.

Anyhow. just my two cents.

and for Jenni Larson, at Zupas, who is boycotting the Olympics and, in turn, Coke (and then probably Wal-mart and MacDonald's and Disney) who is doing it because of the Chinese government. I just have a few words.: 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and Jesse Owens.
( I'll relate the story for those younger people, not around to remember them) Hitler persuaded the Olympic committee to hold the '36 games in Berlin, during the rise of Hitler's power, his purging of the Jews and his rising up of the Aryan nation. He was in the stadium when Jesse Owens, a black, American competitor in the broad jump beat Hitler's Aryan Luz Long. Hitler refused to congratulate, or even acknowledge Owen's achievement. he then left the stadium right before Owen's fellow African-American teammate was to compete. but the thing is, Luz Long gave Jesse Owen's some advice right before his jump, (since Owens fouled hi 2 pre-lim jumps, he needed to make the next one, Luz told him to jump a few inches behind the line, and he could easily make the distance without fouling for overstepping) Luz's advice made Owen's go on to win the gold, Luz took silver. and Luz Long and Jesse Owens formed a life-long friendship. Jesse Owen's said of Luz "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Lutz Long at that moment."

So I guess what I'm saying to you, Jenni, and anyone else reading, is that yes, the Olympics may take place in China. and China may be doing some less-than perfect things, but the competitors aren't. the competitors are still people and just happened to be born in whatever country they were born in. so let's just not mix politics with The Games. let sports be sports, camaraderie be camaraderie, competition be competition, China be China, Politics be Politics, and Beijing be neutral, at least, for 16 more days.

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