18 June 2008

Rethinking American Olympic Politics

We tried a boycott in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Didn't have a huge impact, other than to dash the hopes and dreams of many athletes and "send a message" that most of the world already understood. I'm not saying we didn't have reasons, just that the boycott didn't seem to advance American interests or change Soviet behavior.

With the Beijing Olympics just a few months away, I've been thinking about what U.S. participation might mean in a similar political context. Most of us abhor Chinese totalitarianism.

But, maybe American participation -- and especially our pervasive media coverage -- will have an impact that serves our long-term interests. Sure, China will try to control media coverage as tightly as possible and limit journalists' access to anything the government doesn't want exposed. But, as the headline story indicates, it's going to be difficult for the Chinese government to contain everything. The inadequate preparedness for the recent earthquakes and the massive environmental cost of China's rapid industrialization should be evident for all to see. Hopefully, the ineffectiveness of China's two neighbors -- North Korea and Myanmar -- in meeting even the most basic needs of their peoples will also come to light.

Shine the light. Totalitarianism's results speak for themselves.

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