Where does the dignity of Olympic athletes lie?


HALIFAX (April 1, 2008) – WHEN the International Olympic Committee agreed in 2001 to make Beijing the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, many of us in the amateur sports movement were happy with its decision, as we were with the decision of FIFA, however reluctant, to award the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. For too long, such mega-events have been monopolized by the countries of the North, commercialized and privatized. All manner of extortion and corruption was used to secure the winning bid, a competition in which Atlanta and Utah distinguished themselves. Despite ridicule and pressure, both China and South Africa assumed the organizations of such massive events with a great responsibility, sparing no resources and effort. The awarding of these competitions recognizes the level of sport development and achievement by the athletes of Asia and Africa, as well as of the two host countries.

The media disinformation about the Olympic boycott, protests and monks hides one thing: it has nothing to do whatsoever with “freeing” Tibet, let alone “human rights” in China. This so-called “grassroots” campaign originated in 2001 and was again kicked off in an organized manner by the American Zionist Steven Spielberg and a Hollywood actress by manipulating the question of the Sudan and Darfur. These celebrities are fronts for Washington. Behind it stands a long-term geopolitical or strategic plan to interfere in the internal affairs of China, and foment discord and conflict within a China that has emerged as serious competitor with the North American monopolies and the European Union. The unprincipled nature is shown by the fact that these same forces are silent about the genocidal attacks made against the rights of the Palestinian and other peoples throughout the world who are the victims of the big powers.

The acts of organized violence against the Olympic torch relay show that this campaign is also aggression against the international Olympic movement, against the cause of sport and friendship amongst peoples of the world, especially the youth. This aggression is not confined to the highly publicized violent street “protests.” The media and government framework shows that they are preparing a frontal assault on athletes as well.

The media discourse over the potential for a boycott of the Olympic Games must be vigorously denounced. Is it not double standards to exclaim about “human rights” in China while at the same time demanding that athletes and athletics must line up behind this campaign but at the same time cannot be political? They are for “democracy” in China but the athlete in Canada is without dignity. The role of the athlete is to be silent, row the boat, win gold for the corporate sponsor, run up the flag, and leave decision-making in the sphere of sport, as with every sector of the economy, to the state. No athlete worth his or her salt can lend his or her support to such an ignominious enterprise.

Athletes have the benefit of the negative and positive experience of the self-serving “boycotts” organized by the American and Soviet superpowers in the 1980s and the just boycott organized by the African countries against the racist and fascist apartheid regime of South Africa at the Montreal Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Many athletes and coaches who at one time supported the boycott of Moscow as part of the U.S. campaign around the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan have reversed their positions. Leo Rautins, of Lithuanian origin, is one who comes to mind. Athletes should study what happened in the international sports movement and see for themselves that concessions to the great powers and the multinational corporate patrons are not solutions. With the refusal of the Canadian governments to defend equality and fraternity amongst nations and peoples, and refusal of the governments at all levels in our country to renew and fund amateur sports as a social right, athletes have no choice but to defend their dignity, the noble ideals that inspire the amateur and Olympic spirit and fraternal international competitions, and their own claims on the social product with all their collective strength, courage and tactical thinking. In this way, they will contribute to opening a path for society to progress.

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