China and 1936 Summer Olympics

ABC (The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the public television network on that continent) headlined that this year’s Olympic Games will “Be Like Berlin Under Hitler” late last week, reporting on Dr Sev Ozdowski’s comments.  Issues of racial persecution in Tibet, possible organ harvesting, and repression and persecution throughout the country have become paramount in several countries as the games approach.  In London, protesters scuffled with torchbearers, but did not reach the widespread chaos that caused the torch to be extinguished twice in Paris.  The two questions on my mind are what it all means and if we’re going too far.

The Olympics are a source of pride for many countries, and a huge economic boon to the hosts.  But questions arise when the unity and pride the games are supposed to reflect and exhibit come into conflict with that very visible economic impact.  Suddenly, we wonder if the beliefs and morals of the opposing teams are those we can confidently accept.  But supporting the games and the correspondent influx of wealth, are we propping up governments that we might not otherwise support?  And should our standards of fairness and equality (however right or complex or contradictory or hypocritical they may be) be the measuring stick determining how much financial correspondence a country can and should have with our own?  In the case of a waking giant of productivity and markets such as China, do we really have any choice?

Furthermore, are protests of the torch really the answer?  Should we be shouting down a wheelchair athlete who has won the acheivement of competing in the Olympics and bearing the torch?  Or is the momentary rudeness towards someone else’s lifetime goals outweighed by unjust arrests and violence in Tibet?  Personally, I would say that violence done to one person does not give the right for that person to lash out in anger.  We’ve supposedly moved beyond Hammurabi.

Personally, I’d like to go back to the example of Jesse Owens.  I’d like to see a Tibetan come out to the games and really excel, and prove their greatness despite oppression, despite confines, despite a lack of political change.  It’s true that outwardly the Chinese government would fully support such an athlete, but I find more power in the individual proving that they are better than a government and better than their circumstances than in a great mob that seeks change by threatening the pride of others.

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