Posted by Rojas @ 2:23 pm on March 26th 2008

Just don’t go

After some reflection, I think I’m now ready to fully endorse a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics. I don’t do so lightly. For one thing, I like sports. For another thing, I don’t like the corruption of non-governmental enterprises by political concerns.

The bottom line, however, is that there’s no point in pretending at this stage that these Olympics are apolitical. The Chinese regime views them entirely as a means of establishing its international credibility and prestige. And based on various reports, they have proven willing to do anything and everything awful to maintain that prestige–from the forcible relocation of thousands of citizens to a vehement crackdown on any possibility of dissent. There is simply no case to be made anymore that the Olympics exert a moderating effort on Chinese policy; they are clearly and demonstrably having the opposite effect.

I suspect I’ll make a bit of an ass of myself on this issue in the months ahead. For the time being, let me recommend this absolutely excellent line-by-line refutation of the arguments against a boycott by Anne Applebaum. As she concludes:

No wonder, then, that everyone who hates or fears China, whether in Burma, Darfur, Tibet, or Beijing, is calling for a boycott. And the Chinese government and the IOC are terrified that they will succeed. No one involved in the preparations for this year’s Olympics really believes that this is “only about the athletes,” or that the Beijing Games will be an innocent display of sporting prowess, or that they bear no relation to Chinese politics. I don’t see why the rest of us should believe it, either.


  1. Can we boycott the United Nations, too?

    Comment by Redland Jack — 3/26/2008 @ 2:40 pm

  2. I’ve been thinking about this too. Mostly, I don’t view these kinds of things (massively macro-level attempts at boycott) as anything other than useless symbolism, and frankly I don’t much care about the Olympics one way or the other (though they’re pretty neat; I have very fond memories of going to the 1996 Olympics, when it seemed the entire world plopped down in the middle of Georgia). But the case for boycotting China in this instance is pretty hard for me to find a good argument against.

    Comment by Brad — 3/26/2008 @ 2:52 pm

  3. After some reflection? You were pushing for it as soon as the Tibet protests started!

    I can’t help but argue that we knew China’s record when they were selected for the Olympics. Their attempts to edit the internet aren’t new–their limits on reproductive aren’t new, and they were actually comparatively restrained in Tibet. So boycotting them (esp right after the accidental shipping of the wrong product to Taiwan) doesn’t strike me as wise.

    What are we shooting for, here? In 1980, Russia was our enemy in the Cold War, and we wanted them OUT of Afghanistan. Period. It was partially about upholding world order and showing that territorial integrity was important, sure, and it sent a message on that specific point. In addition, it wasn’t like we were going to suddenly turn Russia into an enemy of we really had anything to lose.

    WRT South Africa, they were banned from sporting events as part of a PROLONGUED CAMPAIGN with international buy-in. And we knew what we wanted from SA, an end to apartheid, and we were willing to accept a veritable collapse of hte regime to get it.

    So the question that I’d have to ask is what do you want China to do? What message are you trying to send, exactly? If you want a free Tibet, this ain’t going to get it. IF you want to show that their behavior in Tibet is abominable–well, I’m not sure what to say. Shit, people were starting fires, what did you really expect them to do?
    Read this link:
    beating up old men? Soldiers running from people throwing stones (probably because their rules of engagement are extremely restrictive), people rioting, robbing…

    For China, their reaction was restrained. I’m afraid the message that will that the PRC and its people will take is simply, “No matter how hard we try, it’s not good enough. I’m taking my toys and going home. F-y’all.” I don’t think that’s in anyone’s interest.

    It was a mistake to select them for the Olympics, but I don’t get what the boycott option is expected to achieve or what we are going to say the trigger really was at this point.

    Meanwhile, the Olympics will force some additional openness and at least a few more months of better behavior (if not actually good behavior).

    Comment by Leotie — 3/28/2008 @ 8:29 pm

  4. I’ll be addressing the rest of Leotie’s arguments in other posts on the subject, and I’ll hope she will choose to discuss the matter there as well.

    For the moment, though, I will point out that it is flat-out false that I supported a boycott at the time the Tibetan riots occurred. The post she links at the bottom of her comment makes explicit that I was not making arguments in favor of a boycott. What I supported (and still support, in addition to the boycott) was an end to the Olympic movement, which is a different matter entirely and one outside of the purview of the United States government.

    Comment by Rojas — 3/28/2008 @ 8:50 pm

  5. I have no idea what your problem with the Olympic movement is, unless you’re using it as a proxy for discussing the ongoing farce that is track and field. Most of the Olympics isn’t track and field, but still showcases the best competitors in their respective sports.

    Comment by Adam — 3/29/2008 @ 9:48 am

  6. Ah, I confused the two subjects.

    Interested in hearing yoru view on China Policy writ large and how you t hink a boycott would contribute to it….I guess I have to keep reading. This is like a cliff-hanger. Like when the Brady’s go to vacation in Hawaii and to see how they overcome the cursed evil talisman I had to make sure to watch the next episode. You are very tricky.

    Comment by Leotie — 3/29/2008 @ 10:45 am

  7. I think it is the corruption in the Olympic Committee that selects towns, the fact that in order to be the hosting city you have to bribe the Olympic committee officials and that everyone now knows it…things like that sully the event and there should be very stiff penalties–these people should be treated as public servants of the global public and dismissed if they want to live up to those standards.

    Then there is also the professionalization of the Olympic athletes which has created an uneven playing field (as well as a pressure for doping).

    Comment by Leotie — 3/29/2008 @ 10:52 am

  8. The doping issue is most prevalent in track and field, as is the professional issue. I don’t think that three-day eventing, for example, has suffered to the same extent.

    Comment by Adam — 3/29/2008 @ 4:37 pm

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