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The Olympics, China and Human Rights

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 11, 2008

The Tibetans are just the first and most visible “problem” the Chinese are trying to “solve”

August 6, 2008, 22.25 CET

“I’m saying that the Games are a force for the world that will promote the social evolution in China, and the Games are a catalyst for change in China,” Rogge said. “But the Games, at the same time, are not the panacea for all the ills of the world.” (Jacques Rogge, IOC President).

Already 7 years ago, when China was awarded the Olympic Games this year I said that the Games would help focus the world’s attention on China and its violations of human rights.

I think I was right, I think I still am.

The Games themselves cannot solve the problem, but because the Games are Global and so uniquely covered by media, not just during the Games but also prior to them, the Olympic Games has in fact already done more to focus on and push China’s human rights violations to the forefront of average peoples’ minds, than what not awarding China and Beijing the Games in the first place could ever have done.

It may be that Samaranch used the globality of the Games to pick up financial revenues worth more than $2 billion by commercializing the Games which was part of the deal with China, but the price China is paying for that monetary kick-back is an increased scrutiny, criticism and awareness among ordinary people of exactly what is wrong in China today. It may be that these Olympic Summer Games will, in theory and technics, be a huge propaganda success, but exactly because focus has been on China for the last 7 years, people will see through the propaganda.

“The United States Olympic Committee had issued the specially designed masks to protect athletes from the potentially harmful air here. The U.S.O.C.’s lead exercise physiologist, Randy Wilber, had advised the athletes to wear the masks on the plane and as soon as they stepped foot here.”[…]”But U.S.O.C. officials were apparently unhappy with their choice, scolding the cyclists for walking off the plane wearing the masks because it might embarrass the host country, Friedman and Lea said. The cyclists said they did not remember the name of the official who spoke with them.”

Pollution is going to be a problem in Beijing – issuing breathing masks to athletes is a good thing. It wouldn’t be the first time, so it smacks of hypocrisy for the USOC to chastise the athletes for taking the advice of the USOC chief physician.

It is actually a human right to protect one’s health, and it would be a violation of that right to deny the athletes this protection, or say that they shouldn’t use what protection they can get when they feel they want to or need to.

Henric C. Jensen


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