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The Olympics and Politics

the time of the opening ceremony of the Olympics draws near, the international
community is paying closer and closer attention to the human rights situation
in China. An obvious example of protesting China’s backing and support for
Sudan’s policy in Darfur is that the famous American director, Steven
Spielberg, recently withdrew as artistic adviser for the opening ceremony of
the Beijing Olympics. At the same time, the countering voices from the
government of China are getting louder and louder. One of the main messages is
“do not politicize the Olympics.” Some Western countries’ leaders, as well as
the chair of the International Olympic Committee have also echoed it. Wang Dan, a leader of the Chinese democracy movement and one of the most visible of
the student leaders in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also gave his
opinion on this topic. Below is a translation to Wang Dan’s commentary “Who is
Politicizing the Olympics” on Radio Free Asia.

First of all, “do not politicize the Olympics” itself is not a tenable statement. There are many requirements for a nation to be able to apply to host the Olympics; from its social condition to its economic situation, from its degree of globalization to its government’s management ability, all of these are subjects that cannot be resolved simply with sports. When China won the right to host the Olympics, the entire nation rejoiced and all agreed that it represented “the rise of the Chinese people.” Can sports, as a single field, cover the meaning behind it all? Because of its history and traditions, being able to host the Olympics has become an honor for the chosen nation. Otherwise there would not be so many nations fighting for it every four years. But how can an honor to a nation be represented just by sports? Back in the days when the U.S.S.R invaded Afghanistan, many western countries refused to attend the Olympics. At that time, the government of China did not step out to uphold “justice” and call for “do not politicize the Olympics.” Why then, when it comes to itself, is it using a different standard?

Secondly, in the several years since China won the right to host the Olympics, the Olympics has become one of the Chinese regime’s most important tasks. It has used the whole nation’s strength to ensure that the Olympics will be carried out successfully. Is sports the only motivation behind all of these actions? China has spent so much. Was all it was aiming for to make China’s track, swimming, and so on, to rank high in the world? In order to ensure the Olympics to be hosted without anything going wrong, the government of China made a black list that forbids 43 types of people from watching this sports gathering; so who is the one politicizing the Olympics? The government of China arranged that the presidents from North Korea and South Korea would sit together in the audience, and also asked the South Korean team to take the train from Soul to Pyongyang, and then take the same train to Beijing with North Korea’s team; who is the one politicizing the Olympics? When all layers of governments in China were required to put “making sure the Olympics goes smoothly” as their main task, is it really that China has made sports the highest objective of its regime? If not, who is the one politicizing the Olympics?

Of course hosting the Olympics is an honor for China. But it is exactly because it is an honor to the Chinese people that, as patriotic Chinese people, we hope that what China shows to the world is a civilized, democratic, thriving, and free nation, not a government that supports genocidal massacres internationally, and then domestically arrests its own people who have different political views. If these were our wills, even if we “politicize” the Olympics, how can we be wrong? Isn’t it true that a nation with improved human rights conditions will be more applauded and supported by the world? The government of China is thinking of every possible way to use the Olympics to make political profits for its reign, and is using the Olympics’ politicizing factors to the maximum degree, while continually saying to others to stop “politicizing the Olympics.” This is not only an action of “allowing officials to set fire but not common people to use lights;” it also exposes the Chinese Communist regime’s duplicity and hypocritical nature.

[1] Wang Dan was born on Feb 26, 1969 in Beijing. His ancestors were from Heyi, Shandong Province. He was one of the main student leaders at the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989. Before this democracy movement led by students, he had organized activities to commemorate Hu Yaobang, wrote articles to support democratic groups, and so on. The government of China has arrested him many times.
[2] Radio Free Asia, February 20, 2008