Saturday, April 19, 2008

Politicizing the Olympics: A Compromise

Some say the Beijing Olympics are a great opportunity to make the whole world aware of Chinese abuses. Others say the Olympics are about sporting competition, and politics should not have anything to do with it. And some seem to believe that it would be possible to depoliticize the Olympics, while others say that will never happen. Possibly a working compromise would be to say that politics should not be allowed to interfere with the actual sporting competition. So, for example, no boycotts by nation A when the Olympics are held in nation B. You send your best and you compete for the gold, period. That would not prevent athletes from having, and expressing, political viewpoints -- as long as the expression did not interfere with the sporting competition itself. Individual athletes could boycott, as long as others were free to take their places. The other half of the compromise, already implicit in the foregoing remarks, would be that everything else is fair game. Political leaders can attend or not attend; Tibetans can block the passage of the Olympic torch; people can protest -- even in the sporting arena, for the world's cameras -- as long as they do not interfere with any athlete's quest for victory before or during an actual athletic contest.