Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony. Such a protest by world leaders would be a huge slap in the face for China’s Communist leadership.
France’s outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea “is interesting.”
A call to boycott the opening cerimonies? Why, if this is an example of direct action about a cause you believe in, does this seem so wimpy to me? [Because it is? – ed] Ed Morrissey seems to support the idea, if only half heartedly, because of the noted lack of success of both the ’76 and ’80 (summer) Olympics by the US and the USSR respectively.
The government wants to use the Games primarily as domestic propaganda. The withdrawal of world leaders and perhaps Western athletes from the opening ceremonies would rob them of the most significant asset from the Games, and their disappearance would reflect badly on the current leadership. It would be an embarrassment that could impact the entire usefulness of the Olympiad, for which the Chinese have paid dearly.
On the other hand, he notes that
[I]t may not make a lot of difference with the domestic audience. Beijing has already stoked up support for its actions in Tibet with a heavy dose of propaganda, and the snub may come off as arrogant interference:
The Olympics are an interesting two-headed beast. As a display of excellence in athletics, few spectacles top it. Ever. – Not the Superbowl, not the World Cup, The NCAA Tournament, not the National Duck-Pin Bowling Championship held in downtown Baltimore.
I don’t watch the Olympics (much) anymore. Politics got in the way starting in 1972 with the massacre of Israeli athletes and it’s taken the heart out of it. Some say, correctly, that politics is always part of the Olympics (for a better historical record, see here). Again, from John Leicester at MyWay
The violent protests in Tibet, the most serious challenge in almost two decades to China’s rule in the region, are forcing governments and human rights campaigners to re-examine their approach to the Aug. 8-24 games. Human Rights Watch, which has not been pushing for a boycott, may soon change its stance and urge heads of state not to go to the opening ceremony, said Sophie Richardson, the New York-based group’s Asia advocacy director. So far, the group has been suggesting that foreign leaders “think long and hard” about whether they want to seen alongside China’s leadership, she said in a telephone interview.
“Their presence at the games is going to be represented and reported by the Chinese government as a sign of approval,” she added.
And so long as politics stands astride the games like a colossus, then athletes are not being judged by who’s faster, who jumps higher, and who shoots straighter. Then judges with scorecards are determining winners by other measures.
Then the games have no point.
I wouldn’t shed a tear if there was never another Olympics. Not that I care that much, one way or the other, because I don’t care about the Olympics, but I think that it demeans the event to hold it in dictatorships.