Thursday, August 14, 2008
Ever since I can remember, the Olympics have enthralled me. I cheered for Dorothy Hamil, Eric Heiden, Mark Spitz, the 1980 hockey team, Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, and various others. I wept for Tai and Randy, Mary Decker, and all of the 1980 Olympians when the government boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Perhaps it was the competitive athlete in me or I was moved by the athletes’ emotions; the Olympics have never failed to move me.
This year is no different. Obviously, Michael Phleps is putting on a show at the pool as well as the men’s gymnastics team earning bronze without the powerhouse Hamm brothers. The Williams sisters are burning up the tennis court while our basketball and softball teams do the same in their venues. Even sports I never knew were sports thrill me (who knew that watching synchronized diving and kayaking were so exciting?).
However, the Olympics are filling me with other emotions this year. Since the announcement of the Beijing Games in 2001, I have been puzzled and perplexed the International Olympic Committee, which stands for camaraderie and, by its own credo, the promotion of ethics, would hold the Olympics here. The announcement came a mere three years after Tiananmen Square and when China was still the only threatening Communist country in the world. Then, I also realized that part of the Olympic spirit was to have faith. I thought that perhaps China would move toward a better treatment of its people in the way it was progressing into the 21st century in other areas. I tried to have faith.
However, this faith has given way to dread and anger. This spring, one of my students was excited to go back to her homeland of Tibet this summer with a visit to China and the Olympics, bringing one of her friends along. (She was lucky enough to have fled the Chinese-oppressed Tibet when she was younger.) However, her trip was not to be as she explained to me the difficulties of her getting into China, and the possibilities of what may happen.
The Chinese government made promises to the IOC that journalists from other countries would be able to work freely and they would be provided the tools to do so during the Games. These promised evaporated once the games were eminent. Limited internet access is the least of journalists’ problems as many of them, according to Voice of America, are being harassed and detained. Journalists that are trying to cover the “terrorist attacks” in the Xinjiang province against police have been beaten, detained, and had their work erased.
What about the opening ceremony "snafus"? The little girl that sang so beautifully was not the real singer. She lip-synced for the real singer whom the "powers that be" deemed too ugly to represent the country. The amazing "footprint fireworks" over the city were also found to be computer generated.
On the second day of the Olympics, U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon’s father-in-law and mother-in-law were stabbed. He father-in-law died from the attack while his mother-in-law’s condition is now stable and improving. Little coverage has come out about the attack and less has been said about what the Chinese police are doing to catch the murderer.
Protest parks, built for “approved” demonstrations, remain empty. Reports state that police detain anyone who has filed a petition for protest. Police put three Americans on a plane home after they peaceably demonstrated for a free Tibet.
Obviously, I could go on and on with this (and include a tirade how "Chimpy" is being an idiot for ogling the bikini-clad women’s volleyball players and moronically holding the American flag the wrong way) as the games are not over yet. My point is if the “civilized’ world is so “gung-ho” on correcting human rights violations, what the heck are we doing? What more proof do we need that China not only does not care about the common person, but they are using the Games to flex its muscle and influence? Our government once before boycotted the games held in a country that at the time was doing similar things. Did it hurt athletes? Yes, but people understood that human life and liberty are more important than a medal.
I do not condone war and violence. However, when are the “civilized” countries of the world going to stop being bullied and stand up for those who cannot do it for themselves? Or are the all-mighty buck and television ratings more important in the world today? Olympic spirit indeed.