Everyone should boycott this summer’s 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The sponsors should unsponsor, the athletes should stop training and the countries should officially back out.
Public outcry for boycotts from non-governmental organizations, bloggers and certain nations stems from China’s role in the genocide being carried out by Arab militias in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where an estimated 400,000 non-Arab Africans have been chopped to pieces and another 2.5 million made homeless.
The Chinese government buys more than two-thirds of the Sudan’s oil. The Sudanese government uses the majority of the money from these transactions to purchase Chinese-made weapons that are then turned over to the Sudanese militia, the Janjaweed, who molest, disembowel and slaughter the innocents of Darfur.
So let’s boycott the Beijing games!!! If everyone agrees to this we will accomplish…well…
Let’s see what a boycott would do:
Dedicated athletes would see potential defining moments of their careers taken away. The international community would lose its leverage in negotiating with China, China would easily be made an innocent victim.
More importantly, the media circus surrounding the boycott would overshadow the crisis in Darfur that gave birth to the boycott in the first place. Every major newspaper and TV station would run headlines about the boycott, about its international implications, about its effect on sports, about China’s reaction, and about different nations’ inputs. Darfur would take a back seat to the boycott just as it has taken a back seat to every other major news story in the past two years.
Furthermore, the publicity inherent in the Olympics would evaporate. Pulling the plug on Beijing would be like pulling down the shade to block out the window view of a torrential storm. The international eye, that’s becoming more and more fixed on Darfur as the games approach, would close.
It is as ridiculous to think that a boycott would help the situation in Darfur as it is to believe, as Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi does, that China’s interdependent relationship with the Sudan will change within the next two months.
The Olympics must be used as a platform, and the athletes as actors, in making public the atrocities of Darfur and in taking action against them. In a recent interview, actress and Darfur spokeswoman, Rick Riley, said, “I wish I could take China’s president and every Olympic official to Darfur. Because once you’ve seen it, you can’t turn away.” Sports have the uncanny ability to draw the attention of the masses, the Olympics being the international apex of this quality. As such, the Beijing games can put Darfur in the living rooms of the free world for more than mere seconds on the nightly news; the unimaginable horror that we’ve indirectly heard of finally realized by those with the ability to help.
The Olympics are nothing if not symbolic. Track and field star Jesse Owens was the personification of the free world when he won four gold medals in Berlin in 1936 right under Adolf Hitler’s gaze. Forty-two years later, who could forget the image at left?
It is this type of symbolism that these Beijing games can come to embody in the support of Darfur. We look to athletes as the better images of ourselves, the role models, the ideal beings. Why not have these holier-than- holy humans lead the charge against genocide? It’s already happening-check out Kobe Bryants new YouTube ad campaign:
These are the people and this is moment when an image like the one above can spark a movement towards ending the killing of mass human beings. A ceremonial torch-running route tentatively planned from Darfur to Beijing makes clear that these are the people and this is moment when an image like the one above can spark a movement towards ending the mass killing of human beings.
It may take an Olympic fire to shine a light on genocide, but a boycott will leave us all in the dark.