Before coming to the USA, I was around much more talk about the Olympics. Only the talk was mostly around who was boycotting and who wasn’t. While much of the talk around here is about how the US will dominate various sports (see ‘redeem team’ basketball and swimming), and many of advertisements have the voices of the greats (aka Morgan Freeman), I am still confused about the humanitarian and ethical issues surrounding the Olympics in Bejing! Much of this was highlighted by Bush being booed at the opening ceremonies.
Here are a few of my concerns:
1. Olympic Lawmaking: The Beijing municipal authority has declared that more than 70 local laws and decrees would be made before the 2008 Summer Olympics which would banish local people who don’t have hukou (residency permits) of Beijing. It would also banish vagrants, beggars, and people with mental
illness from the city. The Geneva-based group, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has claimed that 1.5 million Beijing residents will be displaced from their homes for the Olympics event. Beijing’s
Olympic organizing committee and China’s Foreign Ministry have put the number at 6,037.
2. Tibetan Independence: Groups, such as Students for a Free Tibet, have initiated a campaign to protest the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. Hollywood actor Richard Gere, in his position as the chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, called for the boycott of the games to put pressure on China to make Tibet independent. There has also been plans by Tibetans to organise their own version of the Olympics in May at the headquarters of Tibetan government-in-exile, because Tibet doesn’t get representation.
3.Violence in Darfur: Activists working to address the ongoing violence in Darfur, Sudan, have called for pressure to be exerted on China because of their financial and diplomatic support for Omar al-Bashir, who is responsible for the Sudanese government’s proxy militias. Some have begun to refer to the Beijing Olympics as the “Genocide Olympics” as noted in The China Post as a way of connecting Beijing’s close political and economic ties to the Sudanese regime. The Chinese government, in turn, has criticised
the activists for “politicising” the Olympics and outlined its plans to help the Sudanese economy.
4. Environmental concerns: Concern has been raised over the air quality of Beijing and its potential effect on the athletes. Although the Beijing Municipal Government, in its bid file in 2001, committed to lowering air pollution, increasing environmental protection, and introducing environmental technology, research data shows that even if the city were to dramatically cut down its emissions, pollution would still drift over the neighboring provinces,[ At current levels, air pollution is at least 2 to 3 times higher than levels
deemed safe by the World Health Organization.] Some countries have set up offshore training camps in Japan or South Korea to avoid the pollution.
5. Discrimination: The new toilet facilities built in the Beijing stadiums can no longer be used by regular Chinese citizens living or working in the area. Concerns have been raised by Communist party officials that the hygiene issues of local citizens would affect the Beijing Olympic image. There is now a penalty of 100 to 500 Yuan imposed on any Chinese locals caught using the bathrooms.
All in all, Laura and I don’t have cable so we are not supporting the Olympics with our watching, but I will check up on stuff online. If we get cable before its over, we will probably watch as it is the national committee who is penalized by lack of national support, not the Chinese government. I do not believe, as some, that this is the Olympics the West has longed for. While I do know of people traveling there on “missions trips” and of people hoping for the financial partnerships the Olympics will bring, I myself am less than hopeful that the real answer is that America, or any of the nations in the West, will really benefit from this venture in sporting history.
Thanks for hanging out this long if you have! Are you boycotting?