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Vail Symposium’s Wednesday event explores 2008 Olympics in Beijing

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyActive Minds program on the China Olympics is tonight at the Singletree Community Center in Edwards.
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VAIL ” As the world turns its eyes to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, it cannot help but see the indelible marks of human rights abuses in Beijing’s history among the new Olympic rings, arenas and fine-tuned athletes. Tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Singletree Community Center in Edwards, the Vail Symposium presents a free Active Minds program about Beijing and the Olympics.

Led by instructor Sasha Breger, the program will include discussion of China as an international host, with special attention to conflict in Tibet, internal religious, political and press repression, and the responses of the international community.

Underwritten by American National Bank, United Way and The Vail Valley Motorcycle Association, the 2008 Active Minds series is free to all participants and is a program of the Vail Symposium and Eagle County Health and Human Services.

The overarching focus of the 2008 Olympic hype has been human rights issues, from Tibet to totalitarianism. “When Beijing was considered for the 2000 Olympics, the human rights record kept China out.” Breger said. “Since then, China has gained more significant power and prowess on the international stage.”

Now, eight years later, has China come a long way, or are the human rights violations just better hidden? Has the world condoned China’s human rights record by holding the Olympics in Beijing? Do these questions belong in the political arena rather than the athletic arena? “The Olympic Committee has stated that its policies and decisions are ‘above politics,’ but in actuality, the Olympics have served as a stage for many political statements,” describes Breger.

“If the Olympic Torch was any indications, there might be more protests,” Breger said. “However, President Bush’s announcement that he will attend the opening ceremonies was seen as a call to American human rights activists that geo-political power is more important than ruffling feathers over a poor human rights records.”

On the topic of geo-political strength, the architecture of the city may ultimately symbolize what is taking place in the rest of the country, according to Breger. Some have likened the new Beijing National Stadium with Rome’s Coliseum. Others have paralleled the positioning of the new Beijing National Aquatic Center, in line with Tiananmen Square, to the Mall in the District of Columbia. Architecturally, Beijing is gaining power.

“It seems, the new architecture provides a tremendous amount of insight as to how China is positioning itself,” she said.

Another chief issue surrounding the Beijing Olympics has been the environment. “In a city where people wear masks on their way to work, it’s no wonder that many athletes elected to withdraw from the games,” Breger said. In an effort to improve the air quality, Beijing has been shutting down factories and enforcing rules to keep cars off the road, linking the environmental impact with an economic impact. “It will be interesting to see what will happen to the air quality with the sharp influx of tourists expected for the games,” Breger said.

Wednesday: The Beijing Olympics

Location: Singletree Community Center in Edwards

Aug. 20: Mexico: A View from South of the Border

Location: Golden Eagle Community Center

Sept. 17: Lebanon

Location: Singletree Community Center Edwards

Oct. 15: Nigeria

Location: Golden Eagle Community Center

All programs begin at 5:30 p.m. and are free. For more information, contact the Vail Symposium at 970-476-0954 or http://www.vailsymposium.org.


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