Monday, February 25, 2008

The China Conundrum

So, what to do about China and the Olympics?

It is facile and ahistorical to assert that the Olympics, or sports in general, should be kept separate from politics. The Olympics are an orgy of nationalistic fervor and political platforms and always have been.

Hell, the Cold War gave the Olympics a huge amount of their cache. I always found it ironic that conservatives blasted Jimmy Carter for choosing not to send the American teams to the 1980 games in Moscow given that Carter was making the decision not to give the Russians the platform that the Olympics offered. It may not have been a great decision politically, and it may not have had the desired effect, but the ardent self-avowed anti-Communists ought to have embraced the decision. But most ardent anti-Communism was always more of a cudgel with which to batter the domestic opposition than it was anything else anyway.

But that brings us back to China, which has a record of human rights violations second-to-none on the globe and which actively countenances genocide in Darfur. SL Price called out the International Olympic Committee in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, and rightfully so. But what is the responsibility of the United States? Are we not fueling China's despotism, albeit despotism with a gleaming capitalist facade, by sending our teams to compete and our media to cover those competitions? The die was cast as soon as the IOC granted Beijing the Games. Surely it is not too much to ask that in the future we don't grant the games to totalitarian countries. Is it?

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