Thursday, April 10, 2008

Will Some Athletes be Forced to Sit if they Stand Up for Tibet?

Athletes who support Tibetan freedom with flags, patches or any other form of expression risk being expelled from the Olympic Games in Beijing. Any such expression will be labeled as propaganda and athletes will face sanctions from the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, a Belgian, announced.

Athletes supporting Darfur could risk being stripped of a medal or disqualified as well.

This situation is really frustrating, and a clear attempt by the Chinese Government and the Olympics to try and quiet down protesters. Are the Olympics really more important than Tibetans and Darfurians? I really don't think so.

This applies to our class because it will be interesting to see how those willing to protest violate these rules, how they react to the opponents' strategy for consolidating control. This is obviously a messy situation. I really hope that something positive will come out of it rather than China just feeling like the world is against them, even if that is true. The Olympics seem to be concerned that the event is being politicized, but I think that is the only thing they could have expected. China is a controversial country. I imagine if the games were being help in America there could rightfully be similar protests around the world.

Some people are anticipating similar protests to what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did in 1968, demonstrating against racial discrimination in America. They gave the Black Power salute and were expelled from the games. But no one will forget that image and I think this is an opportunity to look beyond the games and take a stand for human rights. I wish I was good at some Olympic sport so I could protest!


Brian Kesten said...

The link to the article is:

bridgeo said...

I'm glad you brought this issue up because I think the controversy surrounding China brings a very interesting element to this year's games.
Recently, in my opinion at least, the Olympics have become somewhat commercialized. 24-hour news coverage, flashy opening ceremonies designed to sell, and big endorsements for athletes have replaced the real spirit of the Games: international brotherhood. The Games are about nations coming together for common ideals such as peace and unity, not Michael Phelps selling American Express.
The addition of the protesters, and the possibility of athletes protesting, this year has definitely refocused the Games to this original purpose. The debate now is, do the protests run contrary to or support this ideal? On the one hand, some argue that threatening to boycott the opening ceremony or athletes speaking out about issues detracts from this spirit and simply promotes further discord. On the other, many think that standing up for true ideals of justice unites the world even more than following the status quo of injustice. I have to agree with the latter and applaud the athletes who are willing to risk millions of dollars of endorsements, and personal Olympic success, to do what is right.

Rich Trent said...

In the Olympic Charter, the "Fundamental Principles of Olympism" section says that olympism is a way of life, an ideology that supports the preservation of "respect for
universal fundamental ethical principles."

The most outrageous aspect of the recent fiasco in Beijing is that there isn't more protest and upheaval. The IOC has said that it would harshly penalize athletes who make any type of political statement; athletes cannot show their support for Tibetans, and they are not allowed to draw attention to China's relationship with Sudan with their actions. This stifling of civil liberties is an obvious violation of a multiplicity of principles in the IOC charter. Furthermore, the measures that the IOC in Beijing have taken do not seem to make much sense. After all, is not wearing the colors and flag of one's country of residence a demonstration of support? Is not that a political statement?

As bridgeo said in a previous post, the Olympics are about "international brotherhood." Certainly, the numerous human rights violations of China in regard to Tibet are not acts of camaraderie or comitatus. They are human rights violations. The Chinese government's illogical floundering and clumsy handling of this situation is evidence of a government that now finds itself in a precarious position, in charge of a territory filled with unrest that is gaining support with the passing of each day.

B Palmer said...

When I first began reading about the Olympics and human rights abuses, I thought that if I were an athlete, I would definitely consider involving myself in some sort of nonviolent protest. But as I began to read various athletes’ reactions to the idea, I began to see what a difficult decision Olympian athletes have to make in the coming months. For many Olympic athletes, this Games is their one and only chance to shine at this level in their athletic careers. Even for athletes who call this summer's Olympics their second or third Games, many practice tirelessly for these few summery weeks every four years when the world comes together to acknowledge them. These thoughts make the prospect of criticizing athletes who face losing their medals or sitting out of the Games extremely difficult. It is easy for former athletes who have already won medals or those of us who could only dream of being good enough to compete to say that it is an athletes’ place to make a political or ethical statement, but in doing so, these athletes could sacrifice what they have been working for their entire lives. I think the blame truly falls on the back of the IOC that chose Beijing in the first place. On one hand, it is a really positive move because it has exposed human rights abuses that we all to regularly dismiss or forget about. But on the other hand, an unfair burden has been placed on the incredibly toned back of the world’s best athletes. My only question is: is it fair?

Nicole Pedi said...

I really like this issue because it brings up the idea of consequences for those of us to decide to take a stance for certain issues. Every time I attend a protest or march which ends with the possibility of crossing a certain line or climbing a fence in order to risk getting arrested, I struggle to decide if I agree with those who go against the rules, no matter how fair they may be. On principle, I admire those who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe in. And in this situation, making a stance at the Olympics is a huge thing because of the coverage and media attention that the Olympics receives. But as was previously mentioned, how fair is it for these athletes who have trained their entire lives to get to the Olympics to stand up for a worthy cause and then not be allowed to compete? How effective is it to get arrested at a protest? Are we truly making a difference by doing so, and is it OK for us to allow others to be arrested on the basis of furthering a cause? I think for many of us we can truly admire those who go so far for something they are passionate about, but I wonder how many of us would do the same. Maybe more importantly, I wonder how beneficial it really is for us to do the same.