Tibet and Olympics 2008 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 16, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 16, 2008

Tibet and Olympics 2008

"By allowing Beijing to host the Games, you will help the development of human rights."
-- Liu Jingmin, Beijing 2008 Olympics Games Bid Committee
BEIJING promised the international community many things for the privilege of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. The major one was regarding human rights. However, can it honestly be said that Beijing has fulfilled its obligations with respect to the issue of human rights in advance of the Games?
Let me take this chance to also remind everyone that in 1980 China herself boycotted the Moscow Games in protest against the intervention of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
But now, when people all across the globe are standing up against the atrocities committed by the Chinese government, there seems to be no similar world-wide consensus on boycotting.
I urge the readers to think on the following questions and ask their own conscience. If there is nothing to hide in Tibet, why is it sealed off from the rest of the world? How come no independent journalist is allowed? Why have all tourists been asked to leave? If something as little as possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama can land one in jail -- how is there any freedom in Tibet?
I have no doubt in my heart about the Chinese as a people. Personally, I have many Chinese friends, so does his Holiness the Dalai Lama, and many Tibetans will agree with me in saying that Tibetans will gladly accept any Chinese as their friends. However, that is not the issue. That does not take away from the hideous crimes committed against peace-loving Tibetans, nor does it change the fact that the CCP uses a strict regiment of control and dictatorship to rule the Tibetans.
Whether from Tibet or Burkina Faso or Timbuktu, don't we all, as humans, have a right to self-determination? Is it so hard to comprehend the forced illegitimate occupation of a foreign power? Is it too difficult to identify with the suffering of holy Lhasa?
No matter who blames who, at the end of the day it is up to the Tibetans, and no one but themselves, to decide their fate. Unfortunately, the Chinese communist party is not really allowing that to happen. Tibetans, not just inside Tibet, but all across the world, are crying out against half century long repression by Beijing, and the time to act is now.
Breaking the Olympic myth
The Olympic Games, if you ask me, have always been politicised. Most sports fan often tend to exclude the whole image, that is, surrounding these thousands of athletes is billions of dollars of international corporate interests and industries. Surrounding the talent of a few thousand athletes are the agendas of different countries.
Yes, of course, it breaks my heart to not even fully understand the work that these sportsmen and women have undergone, but in terms of seeing the bigger picture -- a country who promises to straighten up their human rights record in order to hold the Games, but clearly has failed -- such a country definitely has no right to host the Games, especially not in the name of "harmony" or an alleged journey of "unity."
In terms of the repression in Tibet -- I am very sorry to say that the athletes' sacrifices are not much.
Aren't games on an international level all about seeing your country being represented at the international podium? What about the fact that Tibetans are not allowed to participate unless they call themselves Chinese? Beijing herself has long-politicised the Games by taking the Olympic torch through Tibet and trying to legitimise their claim on this holy land for Buddhists, and trying to show the world that Tibetans are happy under their rule. I think the whole world has seen by now the truth to that.
A historical look at few of the ways the Olympics have been politicised
*Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200 metres, gave the Black Power salute during the American national anthem in Mexico, 1968, to demonstrate against racial discrimination in their home country.
* The silver medalist in the 200 metres, Peter Norman of Australia, who was white, wore an "Olympic Project for Human Rights" badge in support of Smith and Carlos's protest. When he died, in 2006, Smith and Carlos were his lead pallbearers.
* Irish athletes boycotted the 1908 Olympic Games in London in protest against Britain's refusal to give Ireland its independence. The American team also refused to dip its flag to Edward VII during the opening ceremony.
* In 1932 Italian gold medalist Luigi Beccali gave a fascist salute on the podium at the Los Angeles Games.
* The Nazis' appropriation of the 1936 Berlin Games for the purposes of propaganda included the introduction of a grand torch relay to the Games -- the very same that is causing trouble today. Boycott efforts by Britain and the US were short-lived, but many Jewish athletes refused to participate.
* At the Munich Games of 1972, gunmen from the Palestinian Black September group broke into the compound occupied by Israeli athletes and killed 11 of them.
* In 1980, 62 countries -- the biggest number in history -- boycotted the Moscow Games in protest against the intervention of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. China was part of this boycott.
* An Eastern Bloc boycott was organised in retaliation at the next games in Los Angeles.

Wasfia Nazreen is National Director of Students for a Free Tibet, Bangladesh.

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