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August 18, 2008
Olympics . . . and Destroy Them
Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian ever, is something
else – a propagandist for the nefarious Chinese communists. You, dear
reader, were probably unaware of this. In fact, it’s certain that Phelps
himself was unaware of it.
Yet he was, according to
comments made a few months ago by a Michigan congressman urging the
president to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing games.
“As the world stumbles
toward that communist propaganda extravaganza labeled the Beijing
Olympics,” started Thaddeus McCotter, a representative from just outside
of Detroit. McCotter was addressing restrictions placed by China on the
number of Bibles that athletes could bring with them to the games.
Propaganda is right. The
first thing that no doubt flashed through the world’s mind when Phelps
stepped up with his relay teammates to complete his awe-inspiring
performance was, “Wow, those communist Chinese sure are mighty.”
McCotter was joined by a
small, but bipartisan, group of congressmen who wished to see the
opening ceremonies of the Games boycotted by American officials for a
variety of beefs.
They weren’t alone. Calls
for boycotts rose from a number of quarters over the last couple of
years, primarily over China’s human rights record. There was a belief
that China would use the Olympics as a good public relations
opportunity, to let the world see China in a light other than a violator
of human rights.
In response to criticisms
that boycotting the Games primarily hurts athletes, supporters of a
boycott said that underlying the Olympics are politics, that nations in
past years have used hosting the Games to elevate their international
status. Many pointed to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany’s use of the 1936
Munich Games to send the world a message – Germany was again a power to
It’s not just the
Olympics, by the way, that people wish to hijack for politics. Nothing
is sacred. The mere presence of certain kinds of characters and plot
points in apolitical novels and films are used as ideological
ammunition. People even found evidence of ideological struggle in Super
Bowl XL, which pitted “regular” blue collar America – the smashmouth
Pittsburgh Steelers – against the effete, latte-sipping West Coast
liberals of the Seattle Seahawks. (The irony is that the days of the
Pittsburgh steel mills are over. Today the city is mostly known for
It’s difficult to
consider this without also remembering the U.S. boycott of the Moscow
games in 1980, or the subsequent Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles games
in 1984. Both countries made their point, and as a result the Olympics
were nearly killed off. Ironically, it was the Chinese decision to skip
the Soviet-sponsored boycott that helped keep the games alive. The
message to us is that politicizing the apolitical risks destroying it.
It’s a message, unfortunately, that’s regularly lost.
Since the original calls
for a boycott were ignored, some of the same people will no doubt find
other reasons to air political beefs about the games. The most likely
target will be the simmering controversy over the ages of the Chinese
competitors in the team women’s gymnastics, and the associated question,
asked with arched eyebrow, “Did China cheat to win Gold . . . and why
did they do it?”
The response to that, of
course, is why they let the jerks win. We should no more allow the
Olympics to be hijacked for political purposes than we should tolerate
parents who scream and yell at referees at high school sporting events.
should inspire us to greater things. The venue through which he does
that should be respected as a celebration for humanity itself, not
trivialized as a forum to air international beefs. We’ve got a place for
that . . . it’s called the United Nations.
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