The Olympic torch saga continues, with the flame having a “secret parade” (a phrase which Libertyblog took exception to). Chinese officials recently declared that ‘no force‘ could stop the relay, and that any protests during the Tibet leg would face “severe punishment”.
The disruption and turmoil (well, protests and riots) surrounding the torch is causing the IOC much embarassment, though they say they will recover from it. The article also notes that Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in calling for President Bush to boycott the games. The torches heads to Buenos Aires next.
I’m going to take a moment’s break from the news to deal with a question: Are the Olympic fair game for protest? I won’t do into too much detail as there have been others before me that have answered this eloquently. I did, however, happen to read a bit on Nearsighted Man’s blog that raised this particular question. There is one paragraph in particular:
I do hesitate to bring this up because my own personal knowledge of the Tibetan situation is limited, but when I see people trying to tackle theÂ athlete carrying the torch and extinguish the flame I am left wondering how this helps the people of Tibet. How does preventing or boycotting the Olympics free Tibet? If anyone who happens to read this wants to offer insight, Iâ€™m all for it.
First, to answer the questions he asked.
It helps the people of Tibet by raising awareness. There are those that aren’t aware of how brutal China is being in Tibet against the protesters. Those people may see the protests and try and find out about them. Or perhaps they are aware there is something going on and are not sure what. When they see the protests they may be compelled to find out what is causing these people to feel so strongly that they have to riot. The question of how it frees Tibet is a bit leading – of course it doesn’t directly, but mindshare is a powerful thing. Ask any big brand or advertising agency. If the protesters cause people to find out more, or clarify what they know, or even debate (such as we’re having here) what is going on in Tibet, then they are doing a valid thing in getting people to realise what is going on. Heck, they might even get a few converts.
As for the games being an apolitical event – that is up for further debate! There is a long and varied history of protests of some form or another, which even the US participates in to this day.
And since we’re on opinions… I am of the opinion that by granting China the games, we are validating and acknowledging that they are worthy of hosting the biggest athletic competition. It is akin (but not exactly alike) to governments officially recognising other governments or countries. Of course, that may be a case of “we don’t like you but we have to deal with you”; whereas the Olympics is a prestigious and elite competition with history – should we really be sharing that honour with countries that have terrible human rights records? In the practical sense this point is moot, of course – China will host the Olympics. But we can certainly debate the validity of the decision.
To Nearsighted and others, does this offer you insight? Does it change any of your views? Do you agree, but for other reasons? Or do you agree with some of my points and disagree with others? Comments are – as always – welcome.
Update: It was in the linked BBC article (“Olympics to ‘rebound from crisis’”), but I thought I should make a couple of things explicit. Firstly, the US House of Representatives has recently passed a motion condemning China’s actions in Tibet. Secondly, the Dali Lama has stated that China has deserves to host the games, although people have a right to non-violent protest. The International Herald Tribune has more on this. He said that he supports (and always has supported) China having the Olympics, but they were using outdated methods to try and silence protesters in Tibet. he also said that nobody “has a right to tell them to shut up”.
He’s a sensible man. He’s supporting the games, but he’s still able to make a point about Tibet. What he says can be applied worldwide – the right to peaceful protest should be a basic human right.