The Olympics has always been an event when people across the world keep aside their personal vendetta, forget for sometime the permutations of geopolitics, and gather to enjoy one of the greatest uniting factors of mankind, i.e. sports. Yet, this time, when the Olympics are being staged in China, people across the world are waiting more to see whether China can pull it through successfully, than for anything else. And probably never before in Olympic history has there been a ‘host versus the rest’ phenomenon as much as is clearly present this time. No prizes for guessing that if China doesn’t succeed in pulling it through, not too many people would be unhappy.
In the last few years, since China was selected for hosting the 2008 Olympics, the country looked upon this event not as an opportunity to bridge the remaining gaps with the rest of the world, but as a perfect opportunity to flaunt ‘the China way’. And this attitude is evident – right from the construction of a larger than life and intimidating Olympic stadium, to the manner in which all kinds of opposition were silenced. All this was a complete reflection of not just the fact that they would not let anything come in the way of this event – even if it takes killing people in thousands (ironically, for an event that is a messenger of global peace) – but also of the fact that in spite of the illusion of change, China, at heart, unfortunately still remains a complete totalitarian state, which it was during the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In fact, one of the preconditions laid on the Chinese authorities, when it came to the Olympics, was improvement of their human rights record. But a recent report by Amnesty International, titled ‘China: The Olympics countdown – crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy’, is an eye-opener. Even if one has not read the complete report or has access to it, the visuals of Chinese atrocities in recent flare-ups in Tibet are still fresh in everyone’s mind. No doubt, China might have made the Lhasa-Qingshai rail network one of the finest engineering marvels in the world; but at the same time, the Tibetans realised that it was nothing more than an attempt to have a complete iron grip on Tibet while attempting to bring about a substantial demographic change there, by forcefully migrating millions of ethnic Chinese. The Tibetan flare-up that happened was no stray incident but a reaction to a deliberate attempt to destroy Buddhism over there. But the brutal force with which it was subdued by the Chinese authorities was witnessed by all. That is not all; the Beijing Olympics would also witness something that has never happened before in the history of the Olympics, i.e. media censorship. The Games have always been an opportunity for the world at large to know more about a country; and that’s why Olympics is not just about sports. But this time, there are reports that there will be severe restrictions on the movement of foreign media personnel within China. No prizes again for guessing that China surely has many a thing to hide. But an orchestrated media mugging is probably the worst thing to happen in something like the Olympics, which stands out for liberty. All those who thought that Olympics might just bring a more democratic environment within China are surely going to be dejected.
Apart from all this, a recent report by the Canada-based Probe International states that Beijing is going to witness one of the worst water crises in the near future, as there would hardly be any groundwater left as nearly two-thirds of the groundwater is being pumped out for the purpose of Olympics-related construction activity. In addition, some of the renowned athletes have shown concern over the severe smog that is being witnessed over Beijing – which is a testimony of what happens when, in the urge of making low cost products, all environmental norms are given a complete burial. The severe smog is a contemporary peer of the unhygienic work conditions prevailing in most Chinese factories. Further, to fulfill the increasing demand of raw materials for Olympics-related construction activities, China has regularly compromised on ethics by joining hands with some of the biggest warlords of strife-torn Africa and supplying them with small arms in lieu of fuel and minerals.
And the worst part is that while sports remains a passion for the rest of the world, in China, it is still regimentation, with kids being forced to take up a stream in which they are good and to give up every other choice, just to make sure that the rigorous training transforms into gold medals in the Olympics. Many, in all probability, would join the Olympics with fear in their hearts about what would happen to them and their families if they fail to win medals.
As if all this was not enough, China is committed to make Olympics a part of its geopolitical strategy. If they are successful in that, it would add to their vigour of continuing with everything that they did up till now, thinking that their totalitarian methods are right. And if that happens, then the Beijing Olympics would go down in the pages of history as the most unfortunate moment in sporting history!!!
- 17 August 2008 |