Politics, we’re told, is sneaking its pointed little head into the Olympic Games. Oh, my! Next we’ll discover there is gambling going on in Las Vegas.
Last week, when Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov lectured that “we must not mix sport with politics” and that “all boycotts contradict the essence and the central idea of the Olympic Games,” I couldn’t help but recall Claude Rains as Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca exclaiming, “I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
The very next moment the shocked captain was handed his winnings.
The statement by a high official of Putin’s gangster government brought up yet another memory not yet lost down the memory hole: The twisted officiating and numerous do-overs of the 1972 Olympic basketball finals, which, after the United States team won — not once but twice — led, eventually, to a Russian win. And then, of course, to an abrupt end to the do-overs.
As a kid, and a sports lover, my only solace was the principled refusal of Team USA to accept their silver metals. At least there could be honor in sports.
Yes, indeed, the Olympics should be about athletics, not politics. But to accomplish this noble non-nationalism we must divorce nation-states from the contest, let individuals from around the globe compete simply as individuals. Governments, not athletes, bring politics into Olympic competition.
Thus, the Olympics has long been about politics: but almost always the errant politics of puffed-up nationalism, from a deviant French judge to despots seeking to mask their sinister statecraft in the spirit of athletics.
Why such complaint, then, when the politics becomes protest against obvious and insidious tyranny?
As the Olympic torch relay faced protests-turned-wrestling matches in London and Paris — and then hid from the waiting crowds in San Francisco — history should have reminded us that the torch relays were begun by Adolf Hitler for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Why the new rite? Hitler was all for spectacle, and sought to showcase his ascendant Nazi regime to the world.
What could the butchers of Beijing want? Nothing else than to similarly bask in their growing role in the international order of nations. Decent and freedom-loving people worldwide now shudder.
Bless the protesters.
As hard as it is for conservatives to admit, Hillary Clinton is right: President Bush should not go to the opening ceremony. Or to these games at all. Because the political ramifications are no game.
But though Sen. Clinton — and likewise Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain — have made measured statements against the president taking a holiday in Beijing this August, their statements lack the moral clarity of, say, President Reagan’s “Tear down this wall!”
But then again, when President Reagan challenged the Soviet leader over the Berlin Wall, we weren’t borrowing a billion dollars a day from the U.S.S.R. Today, President Bush’s utopian regime is indeed borrowing that much from the Chinese. When Bill Clinton sold government favors to the Chinese it was sickening. How much more disgusting is it now that we’re selling our children’s future to them?
Ms. Clinton offered that, “At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government.”
At “this time”? In light of “recent events”?
Chinese behavior hasn’t taken some sort of sudden detour from sweetness and light. Human rights have been routinely violated there, for decades.
Nor is it merely Chinese behavior in Tibet or support for the brutal regimes in the Sudan or Burma that should concern us. The brutal repression of the Chinese despots against their own people is reason enough to stay away from any official validation of the Chinese government.
Absent “major changes”? You can sure say that again!
Some will advise that we should get our own house in order before we go off preaching to the Chinese. But refusing to be part of a charade against humanity is hardly preaching. Rather than debate what “getting our own house in order” means, precisely, surely recognizing the universal importance of basic human rights is a good step in that direction. (Another bold step would be to stop running massive deficits funded by Chinese tyrants.)
Don’t go to Beijing, Mr. President. You owe nothing less to all the brave Chinese yearning to breathe free, while struggling against threats and torture from the thugs in control of Tiananmen.
Stay home in solidarity to freedom fighters like Hu Jia and Ye Guozhu and Teng Biao and Ye Guoqiang and Chen Xiaoming and Chen Guangcheng and Yang Chunlin and Dr. Xu Zerong and Huang Jinqiu and Zhou Heng and Cai Zhuohua and Xu Wanping and Sun Bu'er and Shi Tao and . . .