Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the politics of the olympics

Although I don't care for the tone, Anne Applebaum at wrote an interesting piece on why China should quit feigning outrage over the media attention its enhanced Disneyland tour with the Olympic torch is attracting.

Jacob Leibenluft at has also recently written about why world leaders not attending the Olympic opening ceremonies is hardly a political statement. However, as he astutely writes about this particular Olympics: "The Chinese government — both explicitly and implicitly — endowed the games and their opening event with so much symbolic importance that attendance naturally became a referendum on China itself." Nevertheless, as he writes: "According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, no American president has ever attended an opening ceremony beyond American borders." One might argue, therefore, that for an American president to attend the opening ceremonies has a more significant symbolic effect than not -- despite the attempts by Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary, to say otherwise "but I'm not trying to signal anything by saying that [the President is attending the opening ceremonies]".

My feeling is this: trying to hijack the Olympic torch itself in the fashion that we all saw in London, Paris, and San Francisco, is dumb and mis-directed. By all means, take advantage of the media extravaganza that the Chinese government is responsible for -- even as it plays the victim -- and protest China's human rights record. If you want to boycott the Chinese government's media spectacle then don't buy tickets or go to the Games. If you want to avoid the dubious endorsement of foreign governments as a result of their being given host nation status, then protest to the International Olympic Committee. That Jacques Rogge seriously thought in 2001 that the Olympics would be a vehicle to improve conditions in China -- "The committee's delegates expressed widespread hope that a seven-year buildup to the 2008 Games would accelerate openness in China and facilitate improvement in its record on human rights." -- is frankly equally dumb and mis-directed. And flew in the face of the positive impact that exclusion from Olympic selection had already played a part in on effecting regime change (in the case of apartheid in South Africa).

Meanwhile the Chinese government has just found dynamite and ammunition in 11 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in northeastern Xinhua province. I'm sorry, but my skeptic radar is going haywire. On the homefront, though, close to the new National Stadium in Beijing, the Chinese government is building a new museum dedicated to Tibet -- a Tibet in which the Dalai Lama does not feature after 1959. I'm guessing that particular palimpsest probably doesn't feature Chinggis Khan either.

It's also rather sad that the ideological arm of the Chinese government extends so far into North Carolina. As this story from the New York Times illustrates, a Chinese student who found herself in the middle of a campus protest and actively encouraged pro-Tibetan and pro-Chinese supporters to actually talk to each other found herself 'outed' as a traitor over the internet, threatened with dismemberment, and her parents' address in Qingdao published. Grace Wang wins my Hero in the Face of Ignorance Award.

Extrapolating backwards from this recent story in the NYT about micro-trending and political polling, I'm also skeptical that avid-Barack Obama supporter, Pat the Terrierman, has a pantry full of olive oil and Bare Naked Granola.

1 comment:

Dan said...

That settles it. We're not going to the Olympics this year... oh wait; we can't even afford gas to drive the motor home to Gary, IN this weekend......