Hope Tibet Will Have a Brighter Future

Olympic boycott will be ineffective if attempted

I hate to talk about the Olympic boycott, though I’ve already given a brief discussion, because sports and politics should be divided. However, I read a nice article in Daily Cardinal, a University of Wisconsin independent student’s newspaper, addressing the boycott problems in detail. Of course, I still have say, I do not agree with all the opinions in this article, however, some considerations are instructive. Here is the article:

Olympic boycott will be ineffective if attempted

By: Matt Jividen /The Daily Cardinal – April 16, 2008
Matt Jividen is a senior majoring in history. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com.


If you turned on the news last week, chances are you saw at least one image of the massive protests following the Olympic torch. It was certainly a sight to behold. My personal favorite was the banner draped between the structural supports of the Golden Gate Bridge. The goal of the protesters is the boycott of the Olympic games because of China’s deplorable treatment of theTibetans, numerous human rights violations, harsh treatment of political dissenters and widespread media censorship. Who would have thought a country that produces so many American flags could do such harm?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to remedy the repressive regime in China as much as anyone else, but boycotting the Olympics isn’t going to do anything. Although a boycott may appeal to the conscience of a righteous Westerner, it has little chance of helping the people suffering in Tibet of mainland China.

Many have suggested taking part in the Olympics would legitimize the current political and social atmosphere in China. Unfortunately, China has already been legitimized. The People’s Republic of China was legitimized in 1971 when it was seated in the United Nations—despite its absolutely deplorable human rights record, which continues to this day. You still want to talk about legitimate? They are paramount among international creditors, having extended massive amounts of funds to developing and advanced nations alike.

To pretend that a boycott would do anything to curb their current course of action or diminish their status is pure fantasy. Imagine if the Olympics were being held in the United States this year and China decided to boycott based on our continuing presence in two foreign theaters. It’s highly doubtful this would lead to our withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the same logic should apply to China.

Others believe it is good enough to just send a message. If you’re naive enough to believe our international posturing will cause damage to the Chinese government and effectively loosen their grip on the country, think again.

If Americans and Europeans refuse to attend the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government will gladly parlay that into volatile propaganda. The result will be the Chinese people feeling as if Western nations have insulted them. If anything, it will further cement the ‘us-versus-them’ mentality. Most people in China will not understand the distinction between the policies of the Bush Administration and general consensus of the American public. The Chinese media machine will portray an ideologically homogeneous and hypocrital American public that starts wars of attrition around the world yet boycotts the Chinese Olympics from our supposed moral high ground. As unpopular as it may be to say, there might be a grain of truth to that. Perhaps we should make sure our own house is in order before we begin to condemn other nations.

The simple truth is sports boycotts generally don’t work. The 1980 boycott didn’t curb Soviet aggression and the 1984 Soviet boycott of Los Angeles only allowed the United States to dominate the games.

The only marginally successful sports boycott was the one imposed on South Africa. It’s true the course of action taken against South Africa did eventually play a part in ending apartied. However, it was only one small part in a comprehensive excommunication of South Africa from the international community.

There are several differences between the South African plan and the proposed course of action in China. South Africa was not unilaterally boycotted by one nation for one event (as we are suggesting with China) but ostracized by established Western nations for decades.

It is also worth noting the state morale was partially tied up in competing internationally in rugby and cricket. Most importantly, the boycott was coupled with massive divestment campaigns from private businesses and national exclusion from international markets.

There is no chance the tough-talking American politicians (including the three presidential candidates) are going to follow through with any economic sanctions on China, who is coincidentally our largest trading partner. In fact, last year alone the United States amassed a $250 billion trade deficit with China. That begs the question, if we’re truly so upset about China’s treatment of its citizenry why are we facilitating economic growth in China to the tune of $250 billion per year?

Apparently we are willing to fund a totalitarian regime, but we draw the line if a group of Americans want to go there to play water polo.

Even so, it’s nice that after 60 years American politicians are discussing the situation in Tibet and China’s human rights violations. Perhaps Sudan could host the Olympics in two decades and foster a frank discussion on the situation in Darfur, but don’t expect any action—just a grand and meaningless gesture that has absolutely no capacity to prompt change. The only people who stand to be affected are the athletes who may miss their only chance to compete on the highest level.

Even former President Jimmy Carter has joined the fray dismissing calls for a boycott. For those of you that remember, Jimmy Carter ordered the infamous boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. “That was a totally different experience in 1980, when the Soviet Union had brutally invaded and killed thousands and thousands of people,” Carter said. “They were threatening to go further south and take over other countries.”

It’s 30 years later and now look at who’s in Afghanistan. I agree China’s policy needs to change, but for the time being, maybe we should just be happy that we’re still invited. Let’s not politicize the Olympics—after all, they are supposed to be an exhibition of athleticism, global unity and a testing ground for new performance enhancing drugs.

In closing, I just hope China enjoys the financial, social and economic boom that Sarajevo did following hosting the ’84 games.

Matt Jividen is a senior majoring in history. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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April 16, 2008 Posted by | Articles | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment