Should the US boycott the Olympics?


Previously, in response to a report that hundreds of Tibetans have been killed since March 10, 2008, lestro wondered, “what if they hosted an Olympics and no one came?”

The conversation continues…

Bush: Politics not a factor in Olympics

WASHINGTON – China’s crackdown in Tibet will not cause President Bush to cancel his planned trip to the Beijing Olympics, the White House said Thursday.

… Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush’s position is that the Olympics “should be about the athletes and not necessarily about politics.”

She said that Bush, in accepting the invitation last year from Chinese President Hu Jintao to attend the Olympics, told him the games would “shine a spotlight on all things Chinese.”

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Perino added.

Bush agreed to go to the Olympics during a meeting with Hu in Australia last September during the Asia Pacific Economic Council meeting. A White House spokesman said at the time that Bush was going to the games for the sports and not for any political statement.

(image via via

Should the US boycott the 2008 Olympics?


First of all, that is one of my favorite photographs of all time; I think it is one of the most punk rock images ever.

but I agree with the President. the Olympics should be about sport and about the athletes. I am all for the athletes expressing their views if they so choose. it is their stage, after all.

the Olympics are supposed to be a time to put away all of those feelings and concentrate on sport. come together in friendly competition and all that cal.

I think the olympic committee should never have selected Beijing, but once selected, i think the United States should and needs to be there.

however I think there should be some reservations about air quality and such.

and I wonder what Athens is doing with their shiny 2004 venues…


loadz was just saying that he thinks the Olympics going to China is a good thing because of the glare of the cameras and the shedding of light over there. he pointed out that every activist in the country is waiting for the world to get a glimpse at conditions inside China.

he makes a good point and one that I hadn’t considered, that the Olympics puts all of these things into an international spotlight and the good that can come from that…


yup – it is awesome that China gets to report how it can do no wrong and portray the attendance of the world at the Olympics as confirmation of that.

Tibet is very far away from Beijing. Tibet is locked down and away – there is a lot going on that we can’t see. the US asked to get in there, and China ‘has not agreed.’ foreign journalists are barred, censors are roaming the internets. what a bright light is shining already. you’re right, let’s just enjoy those games, it’s like a free extra show, see if you can spot the brutal oppression of the populace from your skybox.

then we can all celebrate because someone finally noticed, hooray.

so what I mean is, bullfuckingshit. this is the opportunity to tell China that their country is one gigantic nightmare of brutality and oppression and that the world is pulling out of the Olympics.

a diplomatic sanction, if you will.

what is Athens doing with all those stadiums, I wonder…


you really think they are going to be able to contain all those journalists from around the world?
and even if so, each and every one of them will be reporting how the oppressive Chinese regime will not let them leave the village.

besides, with that many westerners around, getting out whatever message you want to get out will be fairly simple…

the Olympics are about the games and the athletes, about the world putting aside its differences and competing with each other in friendly competition.

it is not politics, though it does present an opportunity to discuss politics, especially because it brings together relatively regular people from around the world.

these are not political events and not put together by political bodies. for the US government to overrule the people and the US Olympic committee sets a bad precedent.

look at 1980 and 1984. boycotts do nothing.


I see participation in the games as a form of containment. the journalists will be there, and they will have limited access to information. and it will be irrelevant by that point. the participation automatically implies an acceptance of the behavior of the host country.

we know enough. we don’t need that final moment of information. there isn’t any other leverage with China is more of my point. china is emboldened if the Olympics go forward; China is using the Olympics as part of its oppression. that is what the participation means.

they are having a long night of broken glass that is going to travel with the Olympic torch. that can’t be conveniently put aside for the sake of sports. we can say ‘the Olympics aren’t about politics’ but China sure thinks it is, for its own internal politics and its international relations.

once the Olympics are over and the bright spotlight has done its thing, then what? sit around and say, gee, I wish there was some kind of economic and prestige carrot and stick we had available to really talk to the Chinese about their volatile country.

what are we going to do? enforce trade sanctions? hilarious. it’s the 21st century and we are post-UN. we have to get by on what we got.

the fantasy that there is an international body waiting in the wings to effectively respond to what is discovered in the midst of the Olympics needs to fade to back to reality.

the Olympics is all that we have. it is the one thing that we could possibly do to actually convince the Chinese to back the fuck up.

we’re going to stand around and play sports while people die so we can help them that much more in the future?

when we could help them now?


From ABC News:

“If you’re planning on attending this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, expect your hotel room to be bugged and searched while you’re not there.”

“That’s one of the warnings in a new fact sheet on the 2008 Olympics issued today by the U.S. State Department to Americans who intend to go to the games that are being hosted by the Chinese government.

“All visitors should be aware that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public or private locations,” the fact sheet says. “All hotel rooms and offices are considered to be subject to on-site or remote technical monitoring at all times. Hotel rooms, residences and offices may be accessed at any time without the occupant’s consent or knowledge.”

et cetera


you’re right, punish the athletes and the world instead of simply stopping outsourcing our business and manufacturing to China. that makes sense.

you really want them to clean up? close our market to them.

do not use participation in the Olympics as a political weapon, especially when you haven’t exhausted all of the actual political weapons in your disposal.

that’s like not letting a kid play soccer because his parents are drunks. or more so, not letting your kid play soccer because a neighbor who refuses to mow their lawn is letting their kid on the team.

not everything has to be a political carrot or stick.

especially when we have political options. we don’t need the UN to enforce trade sanctions. we can do it our damn self. we are their biggest market. tariffs and such. we stop buying from them until they change their ways and they will change their ways…


I just don’t think that is possible. I don’t think we have the kind of economic power over China at this point.

the Olympics are economic. I don’t know what they were thinking when they decided to let China host it.

it is kind of like the Iraq war. here we are, due to an accumulation of inaction and ludicrous decisions.

and it is life or death, not politics.

it seems so wrong to reward China to avoid punishing the world by depriving it of its games and goodwill.

that’s the calculation – untold numbers of Tibetans are going to die in the wake of the Olympics.

while the world plays sports.

I see how this is the world’s Olympics. these are also the world’s people.

what is so odd to me is that I believe most every person in the world would give up their participation in some kind of spectacular world event, if while on their way to the event, they passed a house on fire and saw that it was either go to the event or stop to save the people trapped inside.

there wouldn’t even be a second taken to calculate. it is nearly an instinct.

this is all so much bigger, but it’s that kind of thing that is driving some of my perception.


and about that spotlight:

“BEIJING – China might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics, apparently unnerved by the recent outburst of unrest among Tibetans and fearful of protests in the heart of the Chinese capital.


yeah, that can’t be allowed. under any circumstance.
the ioc can’t stand for that.


but we went to Hitler’s Germany. and we made him look silly when a black man embarrassed the holy blond shit out of his aryan supermen.

tariffs would also have the secondary benefit of spurring our economy as then perhaps the jobs we outsourced start to come back because now it is cheaper to make the shit in America.

but of course, I suppose it really only becomes cheaper when there is a single-payer healthcare system because then businesses do not have to worry about paying for their employees health insurance, allowing american corporations to finally compete on the same playing field as foreign corporations who have no healthcare costs to worry about.  or abuse and mistreat their workers like China.

but the simple fact is that economic sanctions against China are not happening because they are the people financing our war. they are the nation lending us the money to have both guns and butter. economic sanctions are not possible because the president took us into war and instead of asking us to sacrifice (which even Jimmy fucking Carter and his sweater did) he told us to go shopping.

we are deficit spending in this country at an amazing clip and we are getting that money from China. if we piss them off, we might actually have to lay in the beds we made.

but unless the whole world boycotts the Olympics – which is an IOC decision – it does us no good to do so.


you know what, the Berlin Games sounds like the perfect reference point:

“The IOC had awarded the Games to Berlin in 1931 with no idea that Adolf Hitler was to take power in Germany two years later. By 1936, the Nazis had control over Germany and had already begun to implement their racist policies. There was international debate as to whether the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany should be boycotted. The United States was extremely close to boycotting but at the last minute decided to accept the invitation to attend.

The Nazis saw the event as a way to promote their ideology. They built four grandiose stadiums, swimming pools, an outdoor theater, a polo field, and an Olympic Village that had 150 cottages for the male athletes. Throughout the Games, the Olympic complex was covered in Nazi banners.”

It sounds like it emboldened the Nazis. I think this historical bit kind of underscores the point.

the US kicking ass in the games may have undermined the notion of the aryan ideal, but the political power of Germany, in the context of calls for boycotts, once the participation happened – they saw that shit as a blessing.

what if the boycott had worked back then? it doesn’t really bear thinking about. but still…


if the boycott works in 36 it just increases Hitler’s isolation and sense of discontent and bitterness.
and he blames the jews anyway.

but maybe other countries don’t get to see jesse owens proving wrong him and his twisted world view.

and you don’t think we view the Olympics as a way to promote our ideology?


exactly. are we the kind of nation that goes and participates in games hosted by a dictator that is currently in the midst of violently suppressing widespread riots in a chronically oppressed population.

good lord. we can justify invading a country in order to protect people but we can’t boycott the games that take on new meaning as the Tibet crisis goes on.

if there is anyone to get mad at for fucking up the Olympics, it is China. not those seeking to protect human rights.


yes. we go in the spirit of friendship and of the sharing of cultures through sports.

more than ever (because of the war), we must participate in these events that show Americans at their best.

I still blame the IOC.  China was fucking up human rights well before they started fucking up the Olympics.

boycotting the games accomplishes exactly nothing.


Americans turning a blind eye to brutality is not Americans at their best. we’re beyond human rights. there hasn’t been ‘unrest’ like this for more than twenty years. which sounds about right for a generation that has known nothing but Chinese communist rule for their entire lives.


in order to facilitate in China the type of change we both want to happen in China, the United States needs to send good Americans into these places to represent the best of us in stark contrast to their unspeakable evils. we express our discontent and I think we should speak out on it while we are there, but we are gracious guests who represent the best of the American spirit of friendship and competition.

this is an opportunity to inspire the generation raised under the communism and show them the outside. their government can continue to lie to them until they actually meet us. Iraq would have been similar, except the Americans they met were the military, Haliburton and Blackwater. not always the best of America.

we are not turning a blind eye to brutality. we are using the spotlight of our celebrity to turn the attention of the world and the Chinese people to it.

the Chinese people do not know it is brutality because they have been raised under communism and we can’t tell them it is unless we are there.


I just don’t see how China will permit that kind of communication between the participating countries and the Chinese people. I mean, there are the 200 million internet users who can find their ways to information condemning the Chinese actions, despite the censors. but we are placing the burden on the people to violently revolt, that is what I’m afraid of. and the Olympics gives China a huge reason to crack down.

I also think it is likely going to get a lot worse before it gets any better in terms of ‘unrest,’ the news blackouts, and the military response. I just don’t see widespread mass protests as really helping the situation.

I think a concerted diplomatic effort is worth a go. and something more than the grassroots nature of the Olympics, because that will be so closely regulated and monitored it doesn’t have a chance. but something diplomatic, like the kind of goodwill that goes beyond politely overlooking all the dead bodies strewn around the host’s foyer.

this is one of those slow-motion train wrecks where it might be possible to slow it down. or we could admit that China has us by the economic balls, convince ourselves it feels good and go dance for them at their party.


it’s not their party. it’s our party too. it’s the world’s party. China is just hosting.

it is not our job to change the world. it is our job to inspire the world to change itself. it is what happened in Europe after the revolution and it has spread across the world. but the people have to see it to believe it.

and we don’t overlook the bodies. we point them out and express our discontent and use that sense of disgust that seeing it will spread in America to enact the political changes that must be made.
but the Olympics should not be wielded as a political weapon.

boycotting it – unless it is an IOC/worldwide boycott – does nothing.

from today’s New York Times; dig:

It has been clear since the mid-1990s that the popular internationalization of the Tibet issue has had no positive effect on the Beijing government. The leadership is not amenable to “moral pressure,” over the Olympics or anything else, particularly by the nations that invaded Iraq.

boycotting only forces China to turn inward more, because we are obviously not going to stop trading with them (which is the place we should be making statements about human rights and such, not the Olympics…).

a boycott hurts only the American athletes who have trained their whole lives for their one shot at gold, and I don’t want to take that away from them. we regain our place in the world by going in and showing how much better we are than them, not by ignoring them.

by the way, we boycotted the 1980 games because of the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. how well did that work? the soviets didn’t pull out of Afghanistan until 1989 and only then because they were forced out. the boycott accomplished nothing because the Olympics are not the place to make those statements…


Beijing periodically has big riots and protests, too. China’s got the million-person standing army, but it sounds like it might be about to be put to the test.

the Olympics are going to be a fucked up scene this year. on that much, at least, i figure we agree.


Related Posts:

Hillary calls for an Olympics Boycott?

The Torch Relay becomes a new Olympic sport

Tibet Update: Chinese Police Open Fire on Protesters

Tibet Protest News Update

Tibet Protest News

The Middle Way Through Tibet

Tell The World, They Said to Us

9 Responses to Should the US boycott the Olympics?

  1. k@th says:

    pretty hard to separate the national identity and subsequent political policies of the countries participating on one of the largest ‘international stages’ there is. be the medium one of sports, one of finance, or one of warfare. boycotting them would take gargantuan cojones, and while i’d like to see it, i don’t think there’s a chance of it anyway.

    let me say first that i’m in favor of competition and sports, but what are the olympics today?

    -there’s a whole bunch of uber-athletes from every country with itchy palms for medals. yes, they’ve been trained since they were weaned, often homeschooled with no social life outside of the sport, parent-managed and -coached, and have had doctors on speed-dial since 5th grade. their entire lives are relying on this one event…or maybe the next one in four years. where does love for a sport morph into the ‘roided, or pathological i-will-tanya-harding-your-ass-to-win?

    -it’s HUGE money for the host country. it’s difficult to overlook the obvious of what we would be helping to fund.

    – is it really our supreme love for sports that drives us to want to be there, regardless? do we really believe that our hyper-focused athletes are going to make substantial inroads in political and social policy in a foreign country during the time they are sequestered away in the village simply by being there and modeling good sportsmanship?

    -or do we really just want to kick some ass, and have some sports to watch with our beer and nachos?

    -this is like saying that we know you’re going to go pulverize that kid with the glasses on standing on the other side of the fence afterwards, but hey, sure we’ll play with you until then.

    are boycotts ineffectual?
    dick buerkle, u.s. distance runner who qualified for olympics 1980 in moscow, excerpted:

    Buerkle accepts that politics is part of the Olympics — “It’s the way they’ve always been,” he says — and believes that the games can be a positive political force, as with a 28-year ban against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

    “The Olympics did not change South Africa; it took a lot of forces to do that,” he says. “But they were a force.”

    The ban on South Africa from 1964 until 1992 “embarrassed that country, and eventually caused them to open up their playing fields to black and white,” Buerkle says. “It had an impact. The Olympics not letting them compete had an impact.”

    with the money involved, the personal egos involved, and the national desire to triumph on the world’s stage…i would be impressed as hell if we took such a bold move. but we only do those things lately when there’s our own big bankroll at stake. as for genocide taking place…god help me, but i wonder if a lot of americans are becoming too used to the images. see them, be horrified, and forget them by week’s end when we’re off buying stuff at the mall made in china. don’t get me wrong, i think we have good intentions, but today’s bad news bleeds into yet another twist of bad news tomorrow and on, and on..

    can we sacrifice what we may want, for an ethical and humane stand? or do we only do that when we or our wallets are threatened? do we not want to ground our kid even if it’s the right consequence for behavior because it means we’d have to stay home to enforce it when we’d really like to go out? [no intended superior/inferior from the parent-child example here implied in relation to countries inferred].

    i’m personally a little weary of the bad sportsmanship i’ve seen in competitive sports, AND the slaughter and persecution of human beings while things go on as normal. what i really believe is that we’ll go to this, and not one thing will change. if something really miraculous took place and we didn’t go, then maybe…there’s a chance for at least a little change.

    either way, here’s to truly good sports and sportsmanship and a level of peace we can all live with.

  2. twitterpaters says:

    thank you for your comment, k@th. here’s a related clip from a recent AP article, suggesting a “Middle Way” approach to the crisis:

    “DHARMSALA, India (AP) – Nearly six decades of struggle against the might of China has taught the Tibetans one thing: Ask the world for little, expect less.

    … They know few countries have the appetite to cross China, particularly at a time the world is counting on the emerging superpower to keep the global economy ticking as the United States appears headed into a recession.

    … From the exiled Tibetan leaders, there were no calls for sanctions, like those imposed when Myanmar suppressed pro-democracy protests last year, or even a boycott of this summer’s Beijing Olympics.

    It’s an approach that reflects the pragmatism of the Dalai Lama, who has long sought an accommodation based on his “Middle Way” dialogue with Beijing aimed at autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule.

    Instead, the Tibetans appealed for international pressure on China to act with restraint, to open the area to international investigators and the media and for organizations like the International Red Cross to be allowed in to ensure wounded Tibetan protesters get treatment.

    “Specific things are very difficult. No one is going to send in a peacekeeping force,” said Taklha.

    The Tibetans have, however, won the moral support of many nations.

    … Some argue that only international pressure has stopped China from completely crushing the Tibetans long ago.”

  3. Jared says:

    All this does is hurt the athletes. If you want to boycott the country, then boycott the country, but don’t hurt people who have trained their entire lives for this.

  4. k@th says:

    yep. but it sure would be good to see an athlete voluntarily choose to opt out. to feel that passing on this one doesn’t ‘hurt’ nearly as much as pretending human rights abuses by the host country are just fine. in my opinion, the athlete that chooses to opt out embodies all of the characteristics that make these games worth watching to begin with. because, in case we’ve forgotten, it’s always been about more than just winning.

  5. lestro says:

    right. it’s about the sport, not the politics…

  6. k@th says:

    following that reasoning, ‘the sport’ (because that’s all it’s about like bin laden is all iraq is about) can take place in any host country regardless of any degree of human rights abuses it may be involved in? i’m just wondering if maybe thousands of lives persecuted, journalists jailed, and people killed would make any difference, because perhaps the numbers have been too small? is there a tipping point for your thinking? just asking…

  7. lestro says:

    your reasoning is flawed: the olympics actually are about the sport, iraq never had anything to do with bin laden.

    besides, if anything, your response of not wanting to have anything to do with china and their olympics is very Bush-esque in that he won;t talk to people who do not like us, meaning he won;t change any minds.

    but the olympics are about the world coming together, putting aside their differences for friendly competition. and besides, didn’t you see that bit about how boycotting would probably only harden china’s resolve?

  8. k@th says:

    okay. see spot run. yes, the olympics are about sports. my bad for assuming we could see past the obvious long enough to acknowledge the elephant that stands in the room with it. politics, nationalistic pride, have been the conjoined twin to these games since the ancient city-states in greece. to pretend they don’t exist is…well, naively simplistic an understanding, possibly for reasons i’d rather not dwell on too much. re: iraq–yeah, but we were told it, and asked to believe it. similarly, i can’t believe it’s just about sports. it’s big money, and politics, also.

    oh no you di’n’t! bush-esque?! i’ve never, never, said we should close dialogue. never. ‘bush-esque’…remove thy dagger…

    well, truthfully, i don’t see china’s resolve adopting any composition other than ‘hard’ boycott or not. in the end, i think it comes down to making the individual decision that sits right with your conscience. i’m not saying it’s always an easy one. damned conscience…

  9. Pingback: The Year Anything Was Possible « The Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi

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