Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Overheard: The Olympic Torch

China spokeswoman Jiang Yu commenting on the protests of the Olympic torch passing through Paris and London:

We express our strong condemnation to the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by Tibetan separatist forces regardless of the Olympic spirit and the law of Britain and France. Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit and challenge all the people loving the Olympic Games around the world.

The running of the torch has been met with protests in all cities that it has been run. Some will argue that the Olympics are supposed to be a time where politics are set aside and human kind celebrates athletic achievement.

On the other hand, no human event is ever really "free" from politics.

Given what the Nazis were about to do, would a boycott or protest of the 1936 Olympics hosted by Germany have been warranted? During the 1968 Olympics there were several instances of political protest. In fact, several countries have boycotted the Olympics beginning as early as 1956, including the US and the USSR of the 1980 and 1984 games respectively. But boycotts are not the solution because in the end they penalize athletes whose only goal is to compete.

The reasons why China should never have been selected to host the Olympics to start with are numerous, beginning with its government's attitude towards free speech as demonstrated by the above quote.

To me that is the real issue. The right to free speech and to protest is integral to democracy. The right to stand up and say "Hey this is crap!" And if necessary to commit acts of civil disobediance.

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