Olympics and Politics

The latest news related to the Beijing Olympic games is that Kevin Rudd (our Prime Minister) has said “It is absolutely clear that there are human rights abuses in Tibet. That’s clear-cut; we need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what’s going on,” – stating the obvious really. If that was all that happened then it wouldn’t be particularly interesting.

The paper version of “The Age” quotes George Bush as seconding Kevin Rudd’s statement. I believe that this is quite significant. Bush is well known for being stupid, the fact that he is now following the example of someone else who is doing good things is a very positive thing for the world. When John Howard was our Prime Minister we had an idiot (Howard) following an even bigger idiot (Bush) and the result was not good.

Kevan Gosper (an Australian IOC board member) said “They just take their hate out on whatever the issues are at the time, and that hate against the host country is being taken out on our torch“. People who are totally corrupt sometimes seem confused when other people are motivated by moral principles, maybe we have a culture clash between the corrupt IOC board and the attitudes of most people in the rest of the world (I can’t think of any other way to map Kevan’s statement to reality).

Mr Rudd has confirmed that Chinese “security guards” (soldiers) will not be permitted to operate in Australia to protect the Olympic torch from protesters, but the “security guards” have been operating in the UK.

I read about this on the web site of The Age, but I won’t link to them because they have a lot of broken links with the following explanation – I am not going to link to sites that are so transient in nature (linking to The Age would lower the quality of my blog). Incidentally does anyone know of a news service in Australia that has reliable pages which stay online?

We could not find the page you requested. This is often because older content has been removed from our site. In most cases you can still find the item via our archive service, News Store, where you can buy articles for a small fee.

It also has the following text which indicates that the most visible problem is probably transient, but the fact that they deliberately break links is unacceptable to me:

If you reached this page from a link on our site, please contact the webmaster (choose Technical faults) and tell us the address of the faulty page and the address shown for this page.

The MSN article about the meeting between Bush and Rudd also had an interesting quote from Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the house in the US congress) [1]. She said “As I said in India last week where I met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, if freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in Tibet, we have lost our moral authority to speak out on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world” and that the IOC made a mistake in awarding the games to China.

Pelosi is not known for being left-wing (the US Democratic party is centrist/right by the standards of most democracies) so it’s interesting to see her take a stand on this issue.

Erich Schubert has written about this, he points out that the Olympics are not about sports [2]. Well of course the Olympics are about money, drugs, and sports-science!

I’m not sure that I agree with Schubert and Pelosi, the Chinese Olympics has focussed a lot of international attention on what China is doing – this has to be good for human rights. The Olympic games are a white elephant, running them costs a huge amount of money and there is no evidence that they actually make money for the host country once the opportunity costs are taken into account. Maybe we should give the Olympics to Zimbabwe or the Sudan next?

4 comments to Olympics and Politics

  • Ming Hua

    Russell, I’m very happy and grateful to see you also discussing the Tibet and Beijing Olympic Games issue. I feel it would be quite a pity if Mr. Schubert’s post ends up being the only one about this topic on Planet Debian and Planet GNOME.

    Over the past few days, Chinese official media has been focusing on the story about an young disabled girl being attacked by a protester while carrying the torch on a wheelchair at the Paris relay [1]. A story I believe is true (there are some pictures [2] from a very pro-China website) but rarely mentioned on western media. Just to show that unbiased and objective journalism is probably a rarity, in China or anywhere else.


    In my (not so well informed, I must admit) opinion, the Tibet issue is mainly a race issue, not a human right issue. I also don’t think it’s fair to relate the Tibet issue to the Olympic Games. Granted, there are quite big problems about human rights in China, such as the freedom of speech, but Tibet issue is probably not one of them, at least no the big one. And before people starting to wave the freedom of religion flag at me, please point out some factual evidence (instead of just words) that this unrest is caused by conflicts about religion.

  • etbe

    Ming: Reference 2 in your comment stated that protesters were “trying to grab the torch from her every several minutes during that 40 minutes of waiting”. Several means a small number, let’s assume 5 for the sake of discussion (although 3 or 4 are more common). So if an attempt was made every 5 minutes for a period of 40 minutes that means there were at least 7 attempts made.

    If after 7 attempts were made to confiscate the torch the worst she suffered was some scratches then it seems unreasonable to claim that she was “attacked”.

    It seems quite likely to me that the Chinese government deliberately put a disabled athlete in a position where protesters were expected as a PR measure. In Australia large companies have specific procedures for their employees to follow in the event that they are attacked by a thief – all of which mostly involve giving the thief what they want so that the attacker has no motivation for hurting anyone.

    It would have been quite possible for Jing Jin to hold the torch in such a manner that any protester who got past the police could take it without any risk of accidentally hurting her. It would also have been quite possible for the Chinese government to assign one of their best experts in wrestling or weight-lifting to push the wheel-chair.

    Finally a race issue is a human rights issue!

  • My knowledge of Tibet comes mainly from watching a special on Dispatches the other night. This gave me the impression that there are huge human rights issues in Tibet – people being murdered for dissidence, put in prison for years for speaking up (one man said he was imprisoned for 3 years for standing up in a meeting & asking for Tibet to be freed), women are being forcibly sterilised without any anaesthetics. Also there was that footage taken by western climbers in the Himalayas of Tibetans who were doing the 1 month (!) hike across to Nepal being shot by Chinese border guards. There are apparently a lot of plain clothes police everywhere in Tibet and hence people are just too scared to talk to tourists about what is happening. At the end of the program a man said they’d followed the Dalai Lama for so many years in his way of non-violence & that perhaps now was the time to reevaluate…..

  • etbe

    Helen: The Chinese government is terrible in all ways. There are many documented instances of torture and murder committed against ethnic Chinese, of course we should expect them to do the same or worse to people in other countries such as Tibet.