Virtually every nation in the free world is up in arms about the 2008 Summer Olympics. From celebrities to key political figures, we are hearing cries to boycott the Olympics. These cries, broadcast through the world's loudest human boom boxes, aren't just mindless background noise (as they normally are) -- they are valid complaints and echo the sentiments of millions of others who don't carry big sticks.
The "threats" to boycott have undoubtedly sent chills down China's spine, considering China has shown a willingness to do just about anything to portray itself as a model country for the Summer Games (at least aesthetically). Rumor has it that China is even trying to develop a means of clearing its notoriously hazy skies so that CBS, BBC, and the other networks will capture a beautiful & scenic urban landscape this summer. Despite these efforts, however, China has made no moves to clean up its act. Despite all of the negative press from a globalized media, despite the outcries from its own citizens, and despite all of the hollow promises that were made when it sold itself to the Games Committee, China has stubbornly held its ground through its disregard for human rights.
This is not about cultural relativity (i.e. what's right for us is not necessarily what's right for them, and we don't have the right to tell them what we feel is right or wrong in the first place). It is just plain wrong -- how can it even be argued? I read a press release today that announced Chinese officials had stripped two Chinese defense lawyers of their licenses to practice law because they took on cases to defend human rights. I've also read stories about foreign press being warned that it will be monitored in all of its conversations while covering the Summer Games -- whether these conversations take place in public or in the "comfort" of their own hotel rooms.
If you are from a developed nation, just try to imagine these scenarios unfolding in your hometown.... that's what I thought. It's unthinkable. For all the moaning we do about the civil unjustices in our backyards, peeking over the fence should show us that we have it pretty good. So good, in fact, that it is not a matter of us having an agenda here, it is a matter of us having a social responsibility.
So here comes the real question: will any of our countries or athletes, either collectively or individually, actually boycott the 2008 Summer Games? Individual athletes may take a real stand against these unjustices, but I highly doubt any countries will boycott the Games entirely. There is just too much money, too much fame at stake. Sure, we'll shout at the Chinese Government and metaphorically slap their wrists. But chances are that our athletes be suited up in our national colors right next to all the other countries' performers come August.
What kind of message is this going to send? Will it say that we care about the issues, but not at the expense of our gold medals? I sure hope not.