Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Olympic Hoopla

For weeks now I’m been mulling over whether or not to write a post about the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Olympic Games. I LOVE watching the Olympic Games: the thrill of seeing athletes from around the world represent their countries in the opening ceremonies, the elation of watching track & field events not broadcast in the networks, and best of all, learning about the journey of the athletes to the games: the struggles they overcame to compete, and their inspiration to keep going. In my opinion hearing stories about the athletes is the best part of the Olympics. Some of them have had to overcome so much just for a chance to compete at such an elite level that it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I heart the Olympics and cannot wait until its broadcast on 8.8.08 (have I mentioned that 8 is my favorite number?!) from Beijing.

In January I visited Shanghai and found that people were really excited about showcasing their country and having people learn about their culture. For me, China is a country shrouded in mystery, and having them open up just a small part of their country and culture to the world is so exciting for me. I’m disappointed that instead of having the Olympics focus on the athletes and the good aspects of the host country it’s turned into a big political statement instead. For someone so excited at the thought of the Olympics I am disappointed in how events are unfolding.

Let me start by saying that I appalled by the treatment of Tibetans (and for that matter other ethnic minorities in China) by the Chinese government. It is inexcusable to deprive people of their basic rights and treat them as less than human. In my eyes there is no greater evil out there than the pain we inflict on our fellow man. I highly respect the right of people all over the world to call attention China’s abuses towards its own citizens. The Chinese government should be held accountable for these abuses. I believe that sanctions, particularly economic ones, if executed properly, could be useful weapons in letting China know that the world will not tolerate these abuses. Money talks and withholding it will certainly get China’s attention.

That being said, I do not agree with the tactics used by some protestors during this year’s torch relays. Assaulting torch bearers or threatening to disrupt the relay doesn’t undermine the Chinese government – it undermines the individuals who were selected to carry the torch (which is an honor) and more importantly, it diminishes the spirit of the Games. The focus of the Olympics should be on the athletes and their struggles to make it to the world stage. The Olympics should transcend borders and political agendas and provide us with inspiration. The Olympics is a time when we get together as a planet and celebrate each other’s talents. The best part of the Games is seeing the expression on the athlete’s face when they take their place on the medal stand and their national anthem is played – don’t your eyes get misty just thinking about it? I know mine do.

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