Monday, April 07, 2008

Should President Bush Boycott the Opening of the Olympic Games?

Protests have occurred around the world regarding the decision to hold the Olympic Games in Beijing. (This issue was brought to the blog earlier in the semester in an article about Steven Spielberg's opposition). China has been placed not only in a spotlight of prominence, but also under a microscope of international scrutiny, particularly regarding alleged human rights abuses. The argument is not only about China's human right's policies, but that like the title of the article in the link, the Olympics are "Worsening China Rights". How so? Well a perfect example would be the sentencing of activist of Hu Jia which this article suggests has occurred so that he will be silenced during the games.
With that context, I chose to post this article for the following section. The author writes, 
"US President George W Bush is facing calls to boycott the Games' opening. "It would be clearly inappropriate for you to attend the Olympic Games in China, given the increasingly repressive nature of that country's government," a group of 15 US politicians wrote in a letter to Mr Bush on Tuesday.Mr Bush has said he plans to attend the ceremony but Germany's Angela Merkel says she will not. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not ruled out a boycott." This passage of the article stood out to me for several reasons. If the issue is China's human rights abuses, what substantive effect could a boycott of the Opening Ceremonies achieve? I don't personally believe there are any. The argument, I believe, would therefore be that heads of state should boycott for symbolic reasons, which leads me to several questions. How useful is a symbolic act? I don't think many would argue that President Bush boycotting the ceremonies would effect the human rights policies of a sovereign nation, but at the same time, what does it say to and about our nation if our President attends when other heads of state (perhaps more enlightened?) are not? Does it matter? Should it matter? Are we afraid to draw attention to our own human rights controversies? Is our president ignoring international protests? Do human rights controversies of the host country even have a role in the discussion of the Olympic Games at all?


Jen said...
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Jen said...

I think this issue really begs several different questions -- is it better to attempt to remedy this situation by becoming more involved in China's political arena or is it better to make a stand? America has been under scrutiny lately due to a string of unfortunate "immoral" incidents (Obama's religious views and politicized church services, Spitzer's stripper, etc. etc.). Is is more important to protest China's human rights violations and forsake one of modern humanity's greatest traditions than it is to engage in some friendly competitions with countries who we have recently alienated?

Although I believe that the human rights violations that occur in China are a matter of importance, they are not and should not be the main focus of the Olympic games. When the Olympic games were founded in ancient Greece, they were religious games but represented very little other than the spirit of competition. Athletes who won competitions at the Olympic games brought great honor to their families and home states. By politicizing these games, the true spirit in which they were founded is subverted.

In my opinion, the best solution to the present dilemma is for President Bush to make a speech expressing his disapproval of China's human rights violations. The same speech should also stress his plans to attend the Olympic ceremonies because of what they represent to the global community. There are plenty of countries that dislike the US that will be present at the Olympic games and ceremonies. Perhaps engaging these countries in a little non-political competition will be beneficial. In this day in age, the athletes still have very little to do with the political sphere --- why involve them now? I think that alienating yet another country (in a situation where the people who have the power to affect change are minimally involved) won't help us to change their more visible policies and certainly won't help us to change things we know about but can't always see.