Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In Case You Needed Another Reason To Boycott the 2008 Olympics

It is the rare athlete who uses his public acclaim to try to make the world a better place. Arthur Ashe comes to mind, as do Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.

There was the dramatic Olympian display by medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos who raised their black-gloved fists as a symbol of Black Power at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

When athletes do make public their social or political stance on issues of the day, we usually punish them. The International Olympic Committee banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Games for life.

Olympic speed-skater gold medalist Joey Cheek, had his visa revoked by China, because he is an activist working to bring the world's attention to the problems in Darfur, Sudan. For those who may not know, Sudan is a close ally of China, and China has ignored global calls to pressure the Sudanese government to halt the genocide taking place there.

In a poised and humble statement, Cheek offered:
I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur."
See, China revokes visa of gold medalist, Darfur activist Cheek, at Yahoo! Sports.

Many organizations around the world have called for a boycott of the Games in China.

Have you decided whether or not to boycott?

I have not.

I have been excited about the US soccer teams playing to take home medals, and some of my favorite young players are on the Men's Olympic Team.

I am torn.

This news about Cheek, however, helps me lean towards a boycott.

Whether or not you are boycotting, please post a comment leting me know your position.


Michelle said...

I don't know about boycotting the games as much as I just don't find them very interesting to watch. The games just don't mean as much to me as they used to. They used to be special and an event to show off the best athletes in the world and now it has become a media circus where people are made homeless, persecuted for their faith and denied even to be able perform in the games because they want to stand up for people in the world without a voice. In my opinion, Joey Cheek is the only gold medalist this time around.

Joe said...

I don't plan on boycotting the games, just the opening ceremony (I know, the best part). The opening ceremony is a spectacle, it is entertaining, but it does nothing for the athletes and a lot for the sponsor. I think this is the most effective time to sent a message saying "I support the athletes of the world, but not the corporations generating huge revenue and ignoring the ties to the Genocide in Darfur." Here is a campaign that I started to try to send this message: link

Anonymous said...

My concern about boycotting -- in whatever form that takes -- is about its adverse message to all athletes who have worked toward these Olympic moments, wherever they take place. The IOC deigned to hand the ceremonies to China notwithstanding common knowledge of its repressive regime and horrible human rights practices.

Among the conditions that China agreed to -- "open" press among them -- did the IOC REALLY have to obtain China's explicit agreement that it would not extend its repressive tactics to non-citizens. This is not a subtle abuse, one of culture or manners, but one that should be decried and condemned in every possible way. It's still difficult even symbolically to turn completely away from the achievements of the athletes, but I would advocate a strong, visible objection that embarrasses the Chinese government and, yes, its people.


Liz T said...

It comes down to whether your conscience or your pursuit of glory matters more. The athletes have made their choice, the latter. I will not be supporting nor watching one single second of the Olympics and I hope that some athletes take a stand during the competition. We'll see how the Chinese authorities react then.

Shame I'll miss the footy but the principle is more important to me. A City player is there, Jo, playing for Brazil. I will support him when he returns, not when he's there.

My crisis of faith regarding Thaksin has returned with a vengeance also, sad to say. I've cancelled my subscription to the City site and will no longer be listening to commentaries.

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