By Daniel Johnson-Kim, Sports Editor
The 2008 Summer Olympic theme, “One World, One Dream” reeks of irony.
While the countdown continues to the athletic circus, the show before the games has been a divisive debate about human rights and athletic competition among leaders, candidates, activists, athletes and countries around the globe.
And it’s about time.
The inconvenient news of protests from Tibetan natives and the Chinese government’s violent reaction removed the scab covering China’s ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people and its disturbing connections to the crisis in Darfur. The news has fueled a human rights debate inside and outside the budding superpower’s borders, and people around the world have taken stances for or against participation in the 2008 Olympic games. But if United States’ athletes abstained from competition and if President Bush does not attend the opening ceremonies, it would drastically hurt Sino-American relations.
President Bush told ABC News he would not mix sports and politics. But in this case it is impossible.
If Bush heads to Beijing for the games he will be the first U.S. president in the history of the games to attend an Olympics in a foreign country. This would show the United States’ eagerness to continue and strengthen its relationship with China, but Bush should also use his time on President Hu Jinatao’s turf to issue his homeland’s qualms with China’s human rights issues and to urge the Chinese leader to speak with the Dalai Lama about the situation in Tibet.
Although Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said they will not attend the opening ceremonies and some athletes have already decided to boycott the games, Bush and the United States cannot ruin this
opportunity for diplomacy.
Some have compared these games and the 1980 games in Moscow, where the United States boycotted competition under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter. Deep into the Cold War, the United States refused to attend the games in Moscow, and the USSR couldn’t have been happier. The former Soviet Union cleaned house and won a horde of gold medals, but the U.S. got its payback in 1984 in Los Angeles when the USSR followed suit and boycotted the games hosted in the United States.
President Jimmy Carter, who led the Unites States’ 180 boycott of the Olympics in Moscow, said he hopes “all the countries will go ahead and participate in the Olympics in Beijing.” President Carter’s wingman, former vice president Walter Mondale, even said it would be unwise for Bush to skip out on the Olympics.
The booming economy, billions of people and human rights problems will not be solved by simple protest; it will take diplomacy and leadership. Let’s hope President Bush does not ruin his chance to lead once again.