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Sending an Olympic message

Matt Zalaznick
For the Editorial Board

If Western nations want to send China a message about its human rights record, leaders should boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics in August.

The leaders of France and Germany ” Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel ” may skip the ceremony to protest China’s crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet. More of the West’s leaders should consider joining them.

But boycotting the games in their entirety, while doing little more than embarrassing the Chinese, wastes years of work done by athletes, who have done their training and dreaming far away from the legislatures and parliaments where political decisions are made.

The swimmers and sprinters should not suffer for the West’s failure to pressure China to treat its citizens with more dignity. Divers and gymnasts shouldn’t have their hopes crushed by politicians trying to trick the media into thinking something is being done about China’s lousy civil rights record.

Marathoners and basketball players shouldn’t be used as political pawns by governments too heavily influenced by corporations who make billions importing shoddy, dangerous toys from China. In other words, these governments may be inclined to take an ultimately harmless jab at China by messing up its Olympics, but a boycott wouldn’t damage anybody’s business interests.

And embarrassing the Chinese would probably obliterate the little bit of good that may come from having Beijing host the games. Excluding the Chinese from the community of nations represented by the Olympics won’t do much to encourage the regime in Beijing to adopt our ideas of civil liberties.

President Bush has so far said he has no intention of boycotting even the opening ceremonies. Tibet aside, this may a wise move considering the world’s low opinion of how he has run the planet’s most powerful nation.

Were the Summer Games in the U.S., we might be facing some of the same threats of boycott because of our invasion of Iraq.


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