Free Tibet? OK. I'll have some.

>> Tuesday

With the Summer Olympics drawing near, it's time for everyone's favorite pasttime. I'm of course referring to using sport as a metaphor for your country's national history , or in using sport to express your political aims.

Talk has cropped up on a couple of cable new shows speculating on whether the United States will boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing due to recent Chinese crackdowns in Tibet. You may remember Tibet as the country most famous for not being its own country.
Anyone who argues we should boycott the games is spewing pure, total bullshit, and here's why.

1.) Olympic Boycotts accomplish nothing in terms of real, actual foreign policy gains. The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the USSR's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Surprise! It didn't work, and the Soviets remained in Afghanistan for another 10 years. While each US President had their own approach to Containment policy during the Cold War, President Carter's was perhaps the most bizarre. Truman went to Korea, Reagan outspent the Soviets on defense, Nixon opened diplomatic relations with China, LBJ sent troops to Vietnam, and Jimmy Carter said, "You invade Afghanistan? Oh yea? Well guess what, buddy? We're not going to the Olympics! Yea! We got you now! Now you're going to win EVEN MORE gold medals than you usually do!" A boycott of China would accomplish exactly the same. It reeks of the kid who doesn't like the way the game is being played, so he's taking his ball and going home.
If you really want to play the tough love game with China, then take a step that at least LOOKS like it might accomplish something, along the lines of "don't import from them", like the trade embargo we have with Cuba (who has a similar human rights record, but there's apparently no problem with the US National team potentially heading there for World Cup Qualifiers later this year). Loss of trade and commerce with China is really undoable at this point for a variety of reasons, so that is not an option. Fortunately for pols playing to their fanbases, an Olympic boycott would look like we were actually accomplishing something, and many would be too stupid to know the difference .

2.) Unlike the kid who takes his ball home, a boycott will not hurt the Games substantially. In reprisal for the 1980 American-led boycott, the Soviets boycotted the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, and those games are widely considered to be among the best in history. Given the United States' relative standing in the foreign arena right now, I think we can count on even fewer countries to join in the boycott as did in 1980. The Beijing games will be a success.

3.) Don't act all surprised that China reacted swiftly and harshly with a clampdown on Tibetan protestors. Don't be appalled at China's actions just because they are laying the hammer down on Richard Gere's crew. If you're going to be appalled at anything, be appalled at the PRC's human rights record over the past 60 years. The recent transpirings in Tibet is nothing new. China has repressed political freedoms, committed hoardes of human rights abuses over the years, and most unforgivably, has banned Yellow Chair Sports' subversive message from the masses.

4.) A boycott is unfair to the athletes. The United States sends one of the largest delegations to the Olympics every year. Each of these athletes are at the pinnacle of performance, and have spent their entire lives training just to have a chance to compete for a medal and wear their country's colors. Many of these athletes have the Olympics as their sole avenue for glory, as many sports (swimming, track, gymnastics, etc.) are not revenue generating on the level that football, basketball, and baseball are. To have all that work undone possibly by one State Department official announcing an official boycott is the height of unfairness. China will not change its policies as a result. The only people that will get hurt are the athletes.
5.) Plus, a boycott may not even stop the athletes from competing under the Olympic flag (as neutrals), as a number of countries including Australia and Denmark did in 1980. So the end result would be the United States (or any boycotting nation) look like the kid who wants to take their ball and go home.....who leaves the ball on the playground and goes home anyway.

8 comments:

Vinnie 12:06 PM  

In fairness, isn't the boycott just as much--if not more--about China's support of genocide in Darfur?

Regardless, an Olympic boycott may be the least effective form of protest outside of a hunger strike.

Paul 12:09 PM  

Great points. While I think protesting the torch relay is silly and a bit annoying, I can understand the awareness that protesters are trying to draw to the issue. Nonetheless, if you didn't already know China is evil, then you have been living in oblivion for decades.

However, I don't think we should wrong our athletes by using an Olympic boycott to protest a country's political structure and human rights violations. I dare all of those protesters to stop buying Chinese-made clothes, electronics, and toys if they really care about freeing Tibet. (I bet half of the college hippies who say "Free Tibet" don't even really know what it means.)

Paul 12:13 PM  

By the way, your image inspired me to watch the "Free Hat" episode right now... great episode!

Anonymous,  2:10 PM  

the free hat episode sucked! Who the hell ever thought Tweak was funnier than Butters? Also Olympic boycotts are stupid and ineffective, wasn't the whole idea of the Olympics to provide a nonpolitical forum of international competition?

Mike 4:15 PM  

Anonymous, I am going to have to disagree with you. That episode ruled.

However, on the Olympics being a haven free from politics, I'm going to agree with you. However, I think that as long as you have separate national teams competing against each other, people drawing parallels with political events is inevitable. There's a reason why no one made any movies about Team USA's game against Finland in the 1980 Olympics, but everyone knows about their game against the Soviets.

International sport will unfortunately be political as long as North Korea refuses to let the South Korean anthem be played on North Korean soil during World Cup qualifiers. It will exist as long as Iranian athletes forfeit their matches against Israel rather than recognize what their government calls an "counterfeit state." And it will exist as long as the United States refuses to let fans travel to support Team USA for a game in Cuba.

Patrick 2:30 PM  

Having a boss who was affected by the Olympic boycott in 1988 (he would have run the 800) the amount of hostility that a 2008 boycott would bring could really cripple this country. People still have not forgiven Jimmy C for his foolishness. I tell you, it has to be a wonderful feeling when, as an Olympic athlete who is proud to represent his / her country's colors, gets completely abandoned by said country.

As for the protesters, I don't get those idiots at all. Why didn't any of you assholes protest the numerous human right issues last year? Or 10 years ago? You guys looked real classy when you stampeded a woman carrying the torch who happened to be in a wheelchair. You guys are a bunch of fucking hypocrites. Trying to protest for human rights, etc and the promptly almost killing a woman.

If you want to protest China's human rights record, that is fine. But do so in a respective manner. Freedom of speech is great, but when you act like a bunch of arrogant pigs, then I have a problem.

All of that said, the Olympics should go on and we should applaud the efforts of our countrymen.

Iain 7:13 PM  

If I recall correctly there are a number of athletes "boycotting" the olimpics based on the amount of pollution in China. Those are the selfish people. Thinking only of their own health and not of the suffering of others for shame, NOT! But really there are more reasons for people to avoid the games than attend. For one, what's the point anymore? The two reasons boycotts can be effective are people care about the event and money. These two are inseperable, if people don't care people won't spend money. People don't care about the Olympic anymore. Most of the events are boring and very few get proper coverage. I'ld hope with the number of cable channels I'ld be able to see the first round of fencing, if I wanted to, all I can see is swiming. I'll boycott the Olymics not because of human rights or pollution, but because of poor coverage and event discromination.

BB 6:53 PM  

Easy reason why they're throwing a stink about this now: TV cameras.

Look, China should have never even been awarded this in the first place in my opinion, notwithstanding the human rights issues. Consider air quality, food safety, and security alone; three issues China is going to have massive problems with.

The games should go on as they are and with us there. You boycott, and the Chinese will just dominate the medal count a la the USSR in 1980. And that furthers their propraganda points in themselves.

With the human rights issues, sponsors waffling left and right, and the inevitable ejection of foreign journalists/athletes due to pro-Taiwan/pro-Tibet positions, combined with the three issues listed above, the Bejing games will be a fiasco on their own merits. We don't need to further that by not showing up.

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