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The Beijing Olympics - To Watch or Not to Watch?

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I can’t wait for the Olympics to start — can you?

It wouldn’t be a problem if the wait lasted forever.

Whoa. You don’t want to be dazzled by the magnificent opening and closing ceremonies? You’re not interested in watching individual record performances and rooting for the home team?

Sort of. What I’m not particularly interested in is watching — and going ooh and aahh at — an Olympics staged by one of the great weird and repressive regimes in the history of mankind.

China? The planet’s new industrial giant? Come on.

OK, listen . . .

Today’s China remains a terror-based operation, run by the Communist Party. We talk about the Cold War being over — just as, in the 1920s and ’30s, there were grateful sighs of relief about the end of the Great War, the World War. Then of course came World War II. China may be gearing down for Cold War II with its massive military buildup and serving as black-market arms merchant to guerrilla groups and cutthroat goons across the globe.

But what about Richard Nixon’s vaunted opening to China?

He did it largely to irritate the Soviets (remember the Sino-Soviet rift?). The Chinese suckered the U.S. into being a useful fool. With its repressive practices, the regime could compel the world’s largest population to carry it to the global economic heights. It can produce or manufacture anything, and through quotas and tariffs prevent its people from buying foreign goods. Its practices mock the very phrase “free trade.”

I can’t imagine —

Imagine this. The World Trade Organization still classifies China as a “developing” nation, enabling China’s kakistocrats to insist — as they emphatically do — that that can set their own quotas and high tariffs on imports. Most foreign goods in China are either noncompetitive or nonexistent.

And that’s hardly the beginning.

The regime throttles its own people, having originated the “re-education” camp and highly refined the concept of the (slave) labor camp. It was vicious to obstreperous Tibet, often killing or castrating the men and sending in divisions of the Chinese army to rape the women — thereby quickly altering the Tibetan genetic strain.

It refuses to accept the reality of a free and independent Taiwan. It wields its heavy colonialist hand in practically every African country — from Sudan to South Africa, from Angola to Algeria, from Nigeria and Kenya to Eritrea and Sierra Leone. Since at least the Korean War, North Korea has been a Chinese lackey, a stooge, a puppet state.

Through its spies it seeks Western nuclear technology, which in turn finds its way to places it should not. From submarines to jets to space — not to mention its massive standing army — it seeks military primacy.

An oppressed people, a brilliant people, wouldn’t tolerate all that. They would overthrow the government.

Think Mao. Think the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards, the Little Red Books, and “Let 1,000 Flowers Bloom.” Think Tiananmen Square. To the unsmiling Chinese authorities, free elections are an alien concept. And “human rights,” so called, hardly exist — though President Bush insists he will discuss them yet again when he attends the Beijing Olympics.

They hardly exist?

Roger that. Regarding the Olympics alone, Chinese censors often are hassling the press (even detaining certain journalists, especially from Hong Kong), limiting press movement, and — despite pledges of unfettered Internet access — blocking dissident, pro-democratic, free Chinese Web sites.

And let’s not forget Beijing’s air pollution, which China pledged to cleanse before the games begin. Since winning the Olympic contract in 2001, China has spent (it says) $17 billion trying to rid the air of pollutants and particulates. Yet even now the Beijing air exceeds even China’s health standards — and the athletes are arriving. From nearby roads, on some days the “Bird’s Nest” stadium can barely be discerned through gloomy leaden haze.

Authorities have relocated some industrial plants, dynamited others, halted construction, forced millions of cars off the roads — all to little effect. And they promise to do more. Yet inclining toward despair, they’re beginning to blame that perennial fall guy — the weather. You get the picture: The air thing is all the fault of the humidity and heat.

If there had been television, would you have watched the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Munich?

Probably not.

And missed Jesse Owens’ heroics?

That would have been a risk. But the International Olympic Committee, which only just now has allowed two Iraqi tracksters to participate in Beijing (but not five Iraqi archers, rowers, and weightlifters), has cautioned visiting athletes against personal displays of patriotism or dissent from China’s dissing of human rights.

So what will you do?

Take some good books to a place with no TV — and there pull for the home guys privately while glomming nature and watching the lazy river snooze by.

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