Friday, August 08, 2008
politics and the olympics
Discussing The Olympics is definitely a mixed bag these days. As someone who thinks that only good things can ultimately come of the bringing together of cultures, someone who very clearly understands the personal and social merits of athletics, a person who thinks the Olympics have become appallingly commercial, someone who seethes at the thought of China's crimes against the people of Tibet and Sudan, who's been signing every petition she can get her hands on for the last eight years in the hopes that the 2008 games would be kept out of China, a person who's vowed to show her disapproval of this year's Olympic games by boycotting its corporate sponsors (Budweiser, Johnson and Johnson, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola, in particular), a person who realizes that her boycott will have little to no impact in the grand scheme of things but who feels frustrated and powerless and who doesn't know what else to do, and as a normally level-headed woman who is constantly surprised at how emotional she gets whenever the subject comes up in casual conversation, well, let's just say it's a mixed bag for me in particular.  

On the flipside, I fully understand why many people feel that politics and sports don't mix.  According to Lebron James, a man who has used his celebrity status to draw attention to the genocide in Darfur and who is in a rare position to shine a much brighter light on the matter while participating in this year's games,  
"Basic human rights should always be protected. One thing you can’t do is confuse sports and politics. I think the political guys are going to do what they need to do, that’s their job. We are here to concentrate on a gold medal. Sports and politics just don’t match.” (Source)
And in most situations, I would echo James' statements.  I do not, however, think the Olympics is one of those situations.  

Personally, I think that the Olympics is the perfect place for protest.  When else are so many global eyes focused at the same place and at the same time?  Sure, some may scoff, claiming that protests bring a unpalatable negativity to an event that should be celebratory, welcoming and fun; however, I would counter that some of the Games' most shining moments involved politics.  Jesse Owens' four gold medals serving as an act of unspoken defiance of Hitler's Aryan agenda,  Tommie Smith and John Carols' use of the black power salute to draw attention to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the IOC's decision to ban South Africa from the games until its abolishment of apartheid - these are some of the more memorable ways that politics have been infused into the Olympic Games, and moments that we should recall with pride.

So, will we have a similar moment in Beijing?  I, for one, hope so.  As frustrated as I am with this year's games, hearing that Sudanese Lost Boy Lopez Lomong had been chosen to carry the U.S. flag at today's opening ceremonies was a small sort of balm.  No one would argue that Lomong isn't a hero, but the selection of a Sudanese refugee to carry the flag in a country that supplies arms to the very regime that made Lomong a homeless orphan is an unmistakably political move.

And cheers to that. As a person who hasn't been able to find much to get excited about regarding these Olympic Games, it's a small but important move that - though far from enough to set things right - brings me that much closer to fine.  

Now let's see some more.


Blogger Carrie said...

I think you and I agree in an interesting sort of way. We both want people to protest the Olympics and we both think that they should be used to draw international attention to China's actions. I've just decided to watch them, because honestly part of me hopes that someone will step up and do something, and I want to see it.

And again, I also think that these athletes have worked their ass off, and their accomplishments deserve to be recognized. (Plus, you know I'm a sucker for gymnastics. I can't help it.)

Blogger Carrie said...

I saw your comment after I left this, so I see we both agree. I like the idea of boycotting sponsors. I mean, as delicious as they are, I don't really need Southern Chicken sandwiches from McDonalds.

Blogger Mary said...

I don't think McDonalds would notice if I boycotted. I don't eat there. And I too, am hoping one of the athletes steps up and does something. But they've already yanked Joey Cheek's visa. And really, should the athletes who have worked most of their lives to get to the olympics be punished because of politics? It's a sticky situation to be sure.

On a lighter note, I couldn't help when reading LeBron's statement about that silly South Park where they tried to mate a potbellied pig and an elephant and Chef started singing "a pig and an elephant just don't mix." Sorry. Tasteless and nothing to do with the olympics. But I giggled anyway.

Blogger Mrs. White said...

Mary, I totally agree that the athletes deserve their moment to shine. I absolutely do not think they should sit this one out, and never have. To be clear, my angst is with the Chinese government and with the IOC, not with the fans, athletes or the Chinese citizens.

And regarding your South Park comment, I had forgotten about that song, but now I won't be able to think of LeBron's statement without giggling. So thanks. :)

Post a Comment

<< Home