From The New York Post
By Jonathan Zimmerman
I LOVE everything about sports, but when the Olympic Games start later this week in Beijing, I’m not going to watch. And neither should you. Call it the People’s Boycott.
Despite worldwide protests, every major nation is sending its athletes to Beijing. That’s all the more reason for you and I to stage our own silent demonstration. If you want to change the Olympics, change the channel.
Anything less will make you party to the cynical brutality of China’s leaders, who’ve broken nearly every promise they made when they were awarded the Games back in 2001. For example, the government pledged to allow journalists unfettered access to the Internet during the Olympics – yet censors have blocked Web sites like Radio Free Asia and Amnesty International.
This same regime bankrolls Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was recently indicted for genocide and war crimes in Darfur. China invests a billion dollars a year in Sudan and buys two-thirds of its oil. But Beijing turns a deaf ear to the world, insisting that the Darfur crisis is an “internal affair.”
It uses that same line on Tibet, of course – where China crushed a rebellion earlier this spring. Ditto for its jailing of political dissidents and muzzling of parents who lost children during last May’s earthquake. “Internal affairs,” all.
If you buy that, go ahead and watch the Olympics. But if you think that people should have the same human rights, no matter where they live, then it’s incumbent upon you to look away when the Games come on.
The boycott will face objections, of course. I can already predict five:
The Olympics shouldn’t be “political.” That’s like saying unmarried men shouldn’t be bachelors. The Olympics have always been political. They were political in 1936, when Adolf Hitler used the games to burnish his international standing; in ’68, when two African-American medal-winners raised their fists in a black power salute; in ’72, when Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes; and in ’80, when 60 nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
One of those boycotting nations was (you guessed it) the People’s Republic of China.
Protesting the Olympics reflects “anti-Chinese” bigotry. No, it doesn’t. It’s a critique of China’s government, not its citizens. I’ve written hundreds of columns questioning the US government’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean I’m “anti-American.” So why does a demand for an Olympic boycott make me “anti-Chinese”?
The United States commits its own human-rights abuses, in Iraq and elsewhere. I’m no friend of the war in Iraq – but I’m free to tell you that, in print and in person, without fear of government goons harrassing me or my family. Chinese dissidents aren’t so lucky.
The boycott will penalize hard-working athletes. That was the best argument I heard against a true Olympic boycott: If a country withheld its athletes, their toil and preparation would go for naught. But all nations are participating now – how does turning off your TV set hurt the competitors? They’ll still get to play, but they’ll also get put on notice that lots of people object.
The boycott won’t make a difference. Maybe not this year. But down the road, it will. After all, NBC bid nearly $900 million to broadcast the Beijing Games. If its TV ratings suffer, you can bet that the International Olympic Committee – which gets the bulk of its revenue from broadcast fees – will think twice before awarding the games to another dictatorial government.
And remember: Whether you watch the Olympics or not, your children will be watching you. One day, people will read about the Beijing Games and ask how the world could possibly play along. Your kids will have a ready answer: We didn’t. And they’ll be proud of it, too.