Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Cleaning Up" Before The Olympics

In yesterday's post, I wrote about China's censorship of some websites in the lead up to the Olympics. If I joked about it, it is because, as far as these things go, blocking the BBC remains pretty mild, especially for a country where free speech is far from a given.

In addition to the website closures, the Chinese have launched a campaign to curb spitting in the street's of Beijing and they have limited driving to clean up the air (they are calling these the "green Olympics," but a report on NPR suggested they are "green" not because they are ecologically responsible but because a lot of the color green is being used to decorate the city) . More disquietingly the Chinese have displaced many poor to make the city more presentable and have used police/military to repress pro-Tibetan and anti-Chinese protesters.

Similar things have happened before during the lead up to the Olympics. Atlanta tore down homes to gentrify their downtown before the Summer Games of 1996. In the run up to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, when workers refused to work on construction of Olympic venues, Quebec's government abolished their right to strike in order to assure the games would go on.

But the worst may have been in Mexico in 1968. Nine days before the opening ceremonies, students protested in Mexico City. To maintain Olympic "peace," the government shut down the university and brutally repressed the protest, killing some 300 and attempting to cover it up.

The problem is that local organizers know the International Olympic Committee cannot change venues days before the start of the Games so they get away with murder. Literally. The IOC should have a backup venue in Switzerland, ready to go at a moment's notice (even if this means postponing the games by several weeks). This way, when "cleaning up" becomes "covering up," the IOC can pull the games away from host countries that do not respect Olympic values.

1 comment:

scott said...

Just to complicate issues further, a scientist claims that the doping tests are not scientific and riddled with error:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26045416