Monday, March 17, 2008

Cancel the Beijing Olympics? Not a Chance.

Lots of activists seem to be hoping to use the occasion of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to dissuade the Chinese regime from cracking down further on unrest in Tibet. Here's a typical report from today's Washington Post:

"The large-scale arrests and official promises of tough reprisals suggested the Chinese government has decided to move decisively to crush the protests despite calls for restraint from abroad and warnings that heavy-handed repression could taint next summer's Olympic Games in Beijing."

"Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, has opposed efforts by human rights advocates, including Tibetans, to use the Olympics as a way to pressure Beijing for concessions. He told reporters over the weekend that he rejected the idea of an Olympic boycott because of Tibet but was concerned by the reports of violence in Lhasa."

I hope those human rights advocates don't expect the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to do something drastic, like threaten to cancel the summer games, if the Chinese massacre a few hundred Tibetans between now and the opening ceremony. Let's not forget the IOC has been in that situation before - in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics - and it failed to even seriously consider canceling those games.

Here's a refresher on the Mexico City massacre that preceded by a few days the 1968 summer games, courtesy of the National Security Archives of the George Washington University.

And how did the IOC respond in 1968 to widespread calls for cancelling the Olympic Games in order to punish the Mexican government? They dismissed the idea out of hand. Lord Exeter, British vice-president of the International Olympic Committee back then, broke it down for the news media: "The riots have nothing to do with the Olympic Games. The students are not protesting against the games but against the Mexican government." [Quote from the BBC.]

Right you are, Lord Exeter. A few hundred Mexican students weren't gunned down because they were protesting the games, they were gunned down because they were protesting their government, and their government was merely hosting the games. There's nothing there that would harsh the IOC's mellow.

I expect the IOC is no more susceptible to embarrassment today than it was in 1968. They'll let the games go on, no matter how heavy-handed the Chinese regime gets. After all, the Chinese massacre people all the time, but it's only once every four years that the nations of the world can come together to celebrate synchronized swimming.

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