March 25, 2008

Protests not Boycotts?

Just a quick post to point out that Olympic boycotts hurt young athletes who spend years training for these events. So perhaps, as this German article (in English) suggests, protests not boycotts are needed. Hitler wasn't boycotted in 1936, after all, but that was before the boycotting craze stated.

The history of Olympic boycotts shows the ambiguity of it all. From Wikipedia:

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics were the first Olympics that were boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the repression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union; additionally, Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon, boycotted the games due to the Suez Crisis.

In 1972 and 1976, a large number of African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, to force them to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976 because the boycott was prompted by a New Zealand rugby union tour to South Africa, and rugby was not an Olympic sport. The countries withdrew their teams after the games had started; some African athletes had already competed. A lot of sympathy was felt for the athletes forced by their governments to leave the Olympic Village; there was little sympathy outside Africa for the governments' attitude. Twenty-two countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was not banned.

Also in 1976, due to pressure from the People's Republic of China (PRC), Canada told the team from the Republic of China (Taiwan) that it could not compete at the Montreal Summer Olympics under the name "Republic of China" despite a compromise that would have allowed Taiwan to use the ROC flag and anthem. The Republic of China refused and as a result did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name "Chinese Taipei" and used a special flag.

Countries that boycotted the 1976 (yellow), 1980 (blue) and 1984 (red) games

Countries that boycotted the 1976 (yellow), 1980 (blue) and 1984 (red) games

In 1980 and 1984, the Cold War opponents boycotted each other's games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but 16 nations from Western Europe did compete at the Moscow Olympics. The boycott reduced the number of nations participating to only 81, the lowest number of nations to compete since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Bloc partners (except Romania) countered by skipping the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, arguing the safety of their athletes could not be guaranteed there and "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in the United States".

The 1984 boycotters staged their own Friendship Games in July-August.

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Tom Armstrong's picture

So long as the Olympic Games are staged for political purposes, it is understandable, to me, that they are subjected to boycotts rather than protests. Afterall, China isn't going to allow for there to be protests within its country or in Tibet.

It can also be strange -- downright bizzare -- to hold games [ie, entertainments] in a totalitarian country that is engaged, at the same moment, in the suppression and murder of people seeking freedom.

It would probably be wise to move the Games to Greece as a permanent site, and hope that Greece behaves itself.