One debate that is raging in the media is whether the Western countries should boycott the opening ceremonies for the Olympics.
Those who are pro-boycott argue that China needs to be sent a message in regards to its bad behavior in the world-especially in Tibet. Those who are against the boycott mostly argue such a boycott would actually be harmful.
My own thoughts are divided.
On one hand, the Olympics are based on an ideal: the countries of the world are supposed to set aside their differences, squabbles and battles and come together in the spirit of sport. I rather like this ideal and think that it shows the better part of us. While sport is about competition, it is about competition with honor and respect. It is about coming together in the friendship of sport-that bond forged between athletes who are there to do their very best. While I am not an Olympic grade runner, I have been in competitive sports my entire life. My experience has, in general, matched that ideal. Athletic competition can bring out what is best, noblest and greatest in us.
In serving this ideal, we sometimes have to set aside some legitimate worries and concerns. Yes, China behaves badly. Yes, they should behave better. We should not forget this. But, we should go there to forge the bonds of sport and hope that they can grow beyond the realm of athletic
My optimistic heart feels this way and I want to believe in the ideal.
On the other hand, the modern Olympics has always been a political tool wielded to make this statement or that. To pretend otherwise would, one might say, be the height of naive blindness.
While athletic competition can have noble elements, the reality is that the Olympic competition is about each country trying to establish its status and power by winning medals. To this end, means foul and fair are employed. As such, the ideal served by the Olympics is the ideal of politics-everything is to be milked and exploited to gain advantages.
If boycotting the opening ceremonies can hurt China and help the West politically, than that stick should be poked into the dragon’s eye. If boycotting the ceremonies won’t have that desired effect, then it should not be done.
Going to the ceremonies can help the West in that while it will be granting China status, it will also help to encourage China to move further into the Western circle. After all, one way to get cooperation is to be cooperative and show respect.
But, boycotting the ceremonies can help the West as well. By doing so, a message is sent that China must do what the West wants (to some degree) or the West will not show China respect. Of course, this might serve to have the opposite effect. A snubbed China might decide to simply continue doing what it wants without much concern about what the West thinks.
My pessimistic heart is worried about China and my cynical intellect tells me that the West will have to deal with China sooner or later.
Fortunately, I can run for the sake of running and be free of politics. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Olympics.