Friday, August 8, 2008

The Beijing Olympics Thinking Game

I generally get into the Olympics.  Once every two years, I take a coupla weeks and actually pay attention to sports.  Pretty much all sports.  Whatever sport they got.  Especially if I can watch it on TV without the annoying tape-delay.  I've watched biathlon at 2:00 in the morning.  And been excited about it.  And believe me, I'm generally not one to get very wound up over cross-country skiing or target shooting, much less the two together.  But slap some Olympic rings on it, and I am so there.  And I love all the stories they tell you (to make you care about who wins).  Because every athlete out there has a story, and for two weeks every two years, I get all wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of these athletes pushing themselves harder than they'd ever pushed before, for their one shot at success (however they measure it) on the biggest damn international sporting stage there is.

Except I lost my Olympic buzz last night.  In all the years I've paid attention to the Olympics, I've never actually paid much attention to where they were.  This is probably because, in my Olympics-watching history, they haven't actually been anywhere controversial.  And last night (through one of those perfect web-surfing sessions where one thing leads you to another, and another), I stumbled upon a pretty awesome 'blog-type entry from author Dan Simmons.  And said entry makes the point, in a lengthy well-documented manner, why we damn well ought to care where the Olympics are.

And I didn't really know how to deal with my mixed feelings here.  Because, hey, we're not boycotting the Beijing Games (our President is even in attendance) and waging a personal protest by not watching would pretty much affect ... well, NBC, if anyone. 

So I had this idea -- prompted by what is referred to as "Panda Diplomacy."  You know, how China basically says, "Pay no attention to these human rights violations; here, have a giant panda!"  (Apparently, China is no longer actually handing out pandas, but the concept still stands.)

Anyway, here's the idea.  You know how people always come up with "drinking games" for things.  (I imagine a drinking game for the Opening Ceremonies might include things like: drink every time a country is skipped for commercials during the parade of nations; drink every time they reference the air quality (or lack thereof) in Beijing; drink every time there's a touching close-up of a random child's hopeful face; and so forth.)  Well, I want a thinking game.  Every time the Beijing Olympics makes reference to a cute cuddly panda (and I'm betting there will be many), think about the human rights violations going on in China.

Need help?  Amnesty International (whose website was one of the ones blocked for foreign journalists in Beijing) is keeping tabs on how well China is doing on its promise that granting China the Olympics would lead to an improvement in human rights there.  It would be wonderful if bringing the Olympics to China really has this effect.  But it won't happen unless the rest of the world actually takes an interest in human rights -- rather than everyone just ignoring the issue, preferring to focus on what is, when you get right down to it, the biggest giant panda of them all, the Olympic Games.

So when you see a panda, just take a moment to stop and think about what China doesn't want you to see.  Read a little; get educated on what's going on.  If you feel motivated, pass it on, or do a little something to take action.

Go ahead, watch the Olympics.  Enjoy the Olympics.  Get caught up in the human drama being brought to you on a daily basis (most of it tape-delayed).  But don't fall for the pandas.

1 comment:

mlraminiak said...

Sometime prior to 2000, I might even agree with and sympathize with taking a stand against human rights violations in China.  But when one stands back and takes a look at the things going on in our own country....well, we no longer have the right to get up on our moral high horse and judge what is going on ANYWHERE else in the world.    We no longer OWN a moral high horse.  We traded him in for...whatever it is GW Bush rode into Washington eight years ago.

Do I approve of human rights violations?  No, I do not.  But I'm afraid the US is now in a position where we have to take the plank out of our own eye before we can remove the speck from our brother's...  

Lisa  :-]