Thursday, 10 April 2008

Backdown or Boycott?

I've heard more crap about the Olympics than I can bear in the last week.

I've watched IOC President Jacques Rogge tell the world he was "saddened' by violent protests in Europe and that the Games would bounce back from this 'crisis'.

I've watched BBC reporters deliberate on how Britain can stand up for Human Rights and yet not 'offend' China.

I've watched athletes, from Tim Henman to Steve Redgrave, tell us how we should keep politics and sport separate.

I have seen noone, at least noone in the mainstream press, talk about China's broken promises to the world. Why we should be offended by China.

Tibet is actually a side issue. Even if the protests in Lhasa had never happened the West should still be demanding a boycott.

Not for emotional reasons

Not for political reasons

But because China has never, not once, tried to live up to the legally binding promises it made the International Olympic Committee when it won the bid for the 2008 Games all those years ago.

It signed a contract promising to improve democracy, human rights and media freedom in time for the Games.

No ifs, no buts.

Instead, all three have gone backwards.

Oppression is intensifying. Dissenters are held under lock and key, sometimes even in mental asylums. The international press is barred from entering Tibet and given minders while in China proper.

And just yesterday the governor of Lhasa said that if anyone tried to disrupt the progress of the Olympic Torch on its journey to Mount Everest through non-violent democratic protest they would be severely punished.

China has backed out of every promise it made the international community in return for its month in the limelight. Indeed, in failing to publish the Host City agreement, it is happy to pretend it never made any in the first place.

So I want the world to stop worrying about offending China.

While demanding a boycott now may not encourage change the IOC and the international community must demand that China lives up to its Olympic pledges by the time the Games commence in August.

If the authorities do not live up to this contract, we should boycott the whole event.

Some nebulous form of dialogue with the Dalai Lama will not suffice: that is just diplomatic smoke and mirrors.

We need concrete change. Or they can take their billion pound stadiums and use them as detention camps for all those dissidents. That would show the world what they are really made of.

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