Friday, January 11, 2008

Off To Beijing In Our Blinkers

Tiananmen Square massacre: If murder was an Olympic sport, China would take the gold.

It's Olympic year.
All over the world, hopefuls are training hard, hoping that, when the big day comes, they'll put in their best performance ever and win a medal.
The world will be there. There will be a team, of sorts, from Iraq. Sudan will proudly fly its flag. Israel will be there. Pakistan will have their athletes competing.
In fact, regardless of whether a country is governed by a benign regime or an odious on, its citizens will proudly march under the national flag at the Olympic Games.
And, on balance, that's the way it should be.
According to the Olympic Charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The problem arises, this year in particular, due to the location chosen for the Games.
Beijing is the capital of a country, which denies basic human rights to its citizens, which is encouraging dissent, and disruption in Africa and which - despite or maybe because of the proximity of the Games - is clamping down hard on opponents of the unelected government.
Recently, I heard one of Ireland's most respected, most successful and most famous athletes say that issues other than sport had nothing to do with the competitors at the Games. He said they would turn a blind eye.
How disgusting is that?
Athletes will turn a blind eye, it seems, to the imprisonment of those who merely criticise the government. They will turn a blind eye to brutality and, perhaps to summary executions.
They will turn a blind eye to the eviction of thousands and thousands of people from their land in the name of progress.
It will be hard for them to turn a blind eye to the pollution spewed out by Chinese industry.
They will turn a blind eye to the jailing of Catholic priests purely for being Catholic priests.
They will probably not turn a blind eye to Tiananmen Square but rather pose there for pictures. They will certainly turn a blind eye to the events there some years ago when unarmed students were massacred.
Still, Beijing is one of Bertie Ahern's favourite places. He admires the mayor. He likes the way they do things. Whether or not he'd like to send out armed troops to massacre his critics in Ireland, I don't know. But I have my suspicions.
The fact is that athletes competing in Beijing are endorsing all that the Chinese government is doing.
They are endorsing the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Fifty or sixty years ago, it mightn't have mattered so much.
Back then, athletes competed purely for the honour of representing their countries and winning medals.
Now, they're competing for money. Now they're competing to make careers for themselves. Now, they even cheat to achieve their greedy goals.
This is nothing to do with Pierre de Coubertin.
His ideals were honourable and had nothing to do with money.
Athletes will go to Beijing this summer, of course they will.
Television stations, including RTE in Ireland, are already boasting about the coverage they will provide.
Sport and politics shouldn't mix, people say.
That may have been true in the amateur era.
Now, when the aim of the athletes is to pocket as much money as possible, it is no longer true.
They can turn their eyes away if they wish.
They will be nonetheless, guilty.

1 comment:

Caoimhin said...

Great post Paddy! Indeed the blinkers are already being handed out and worn. Human suffering has no chance against big profit. It's nice to know there are people like you out there!