Paul Greenberg

In the glow of the Olympics, the regime sponsoring them can hope that some of its more sordid policies will be overlooked.

See the triumph A. Hitler scored with the Nazi Olympics of 1936, featuring the New Germany. Willkommen! Pay no attention to those frightened little people being herded away. The 400-meter relay is today and you don't want to miss it. So move along. Schnell!)

This year it's the New China that's putting on the Olympics. (Huan Ying! Welcome to the new capitalized, commercialized, cosmeticized and no longer so Communist China. You'll want to see the Synchronized Swimming, the Artistic Gymnastics. Yes, that's Tiananmen Square, but nothing important has happened there since the time of the emperors. Pay no mind to the protesters cordoned off in the corner. We'll deal with them later.)

Like other totalitarian Olympics - Berlin, 1936; Moscow, 1980 - all will be in order in Beijing, 2008. And had better be.

One World One Dream! That's the official motto of these proceedings. No need to go into detail about Tibet and certain other of the host's nightmarish policies. For example:

Beijing's diplomatic support for the vicious regime in Sudan, whose ruthless leader, one Omar al-Bashir, has just been indicted by an international court for genocide, crimes against humanity and the usual litany of war crimes. There's a reason this year's games should be called the Genocide Olympics.

Beijing was also a great supporter of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe until that minor but vicious tyrant began to stumble. And it provides diplomatic cover for the brutal Burmese junta, too. These people always seem to find one another.

They would seem an odd couple at first, the Genocide Olympics in Beijing and the wholesome spirit of amateur sport. But they go together as naturally as crime and the criminal's wanting to change the subject.

In preparation for this quadrennial festival of sportsmanship, the authorities have rounded up hundreds of prominent dissenters - some 700 at last count. Just like the old days in Moscow and, before that, in Berlin.

All will be harmonious in Beijing, too, by the time all the tourists have poured in. The Olympic Village will be pretty as a picture. A misleading one. Prince Potemkin had nothing on Hu Jintao.

Politics and the Olympics have been intertwined since there have been Olympics, ancient or modern, and this year is no different. The general who directed the American team at the 1928 Olympics, Douglas MacArthur, called them "war without weapons."


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.