Olympic Fallacies

Olympics China boycott

Copyright The Washington Post
Anne Applebaum
March 25, 2008
“We believe the Olympic Games are not the place for demonstrations, and we hope that all people attending the games recognize the importance of this.” Thus spoke Samsung Electronics, one of 12 major corporate sponsors of the Olympics, when asked last week whether recent events in Tibet were causing it any concern. Coca-Cola, another Olympics sponsor, has stated that while it would be inappropriate “to comment on the political situation of individual nations,” the company firmly believes “that the Olympics are a force for good.” The chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, was also quick to declare that “a boycott doesn’t solve anything” — just as he was quick to dismiss the demonstrators who waved a black banner showing interlocked handcuffs, in mockery of the Olympic symbol, at yesterday’s lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece. “It is always sad to see such a ceremony disrupted,” he declared, rather pompously.
And no one was surprised: Companies that have invested millions in sponsorship deals and Olympic bureaucrats who have spent years trying to justify their controversial decision to award the 2008 Games to Beijing are naturally inclined to use those sorts of arguments. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to believe them.
Look a bit closer, in fact, and none of those statements holds up at all. “A boycott doesn’t solve anything.” Well, doesn’t it? Some boycotts do help solve some things. The boycott of South Africa by international competitions was probably the single most effective weapon the international community ever deployed against the apartheid state. (“They didn’t mind about the business sanctions,” a South African friend once told me, “but they minded — they really, really minded — about the cricket.”) The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics helped undermine Soviet propaganda about the invasion of Afghanistan and helped unify the Western world against it. I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing that from the Soviet perspective, the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics four years later was successful, too. Presumably, it was intended to solidify opposition among the Soviet elite toward the United States in the Reagan years, and presumably it helped.
Click to read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *