Tuesday, March 18, 2008

China, the Olympics, and political games

There's been a lot of talk recently about whether athletes should boycott the Beijing Olympics, in light of the recent protests/riots and an army crackdown that's seen between 16 (the Chinese government's number) and 80 (the Tibetan government-in-exile's number) Tibetans killed. The talk won't lead anywhere, of course - if China's human rights record wasn't bad enough to deny them the Olympics in the first place, then drawing more attention to what we already know certainly isn't going to convert anyone when it's too late to shift the games to a new location.

But I found this interesting (as reported in the Toronto Star) - it's a quote that comes from the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Chris Rudge, and it seems rather indicative of the international sports community's response to the controversy:

"I think particularly to use the athletes who have made so many sacrifices, to use them as pawns in a game that is politically, idealistically and socially very complicated would be unfortunate. I don't think we can ask one constituency, which are a force for good, to stand up and act on everyone's behalf."

Too bad it doesn't work that way. In fact, I'd say that it's a myopic* argument that takes as its premise that international sports is somehow disconnected from international politics. Sure, he's right to say that boycotts are part of a 'political game' - but so is participation. As ostensible participants in China's Olympic games, the athletes and their countries - Canada included - have unavoidably become tacit supporters of the Chinese government and their actions. But how that has escaped the notice of so many people - including the people responsible for international sports policy - is beyond me.

*I had originally written "idiotic", but decided that "myopic" is likely more accurate. And prettier to read.

* * *

Update: At least France's foreign minister,
Bernard Kouchner, is honest about how politics play in the decision to compete in the Beijing Olympics. Depressing, but honest:

"When you're dealing in international relations with countries as important as China, obviously when you make economic decisions it's sometimes at the expense of human rights," he added. "That's elementary realism.''


wokar said...

I am trying to write a paper on the pro-tibet protests incorporating Baudrillard's absolutely obfuscating "fatal strategies" conceptualisations about the hyper-real. A total novice at research and writing, any kind of coherent or logical thought of seeing such a project through still eludes me at the moment. And seeing that you are an inhabitant of the hyper real theory domain, who has a passing interest in the Tibetan protests, was wondering if you would think the two things are reconciliable at all. I maybe on the verge of adopting a stand like Baudrillard's " the gulf war didn't take place" but being a tibetan myself, realise the capacity of such a nihilitic stand erasing the real pain of my own people. and what's more i am workin on this paper for a presentaion ar york university..and people still talk about six degrees of separation

neilshyminsky said...

wokar: From what i understand of 'fatal strategies', might it not apply more readily to the international community than China? Which is to say that fatal strategies are not emancipatory, and so a protest founded on such an approach must rather be aimed at disrupting something of our understanding of the liberal democratic state - about the banality of the debates that it allows, and which passes for democratic and meaningful participation? That said, i'm not sure what where the subversive, extremist response that Baudrillard called for would lie in this conception.

wokar said...

exactly....!! you said it in those cautiously treading words. tibetans rallying around with their "human rights", "non-violence"(a recent myth naturalised into the TIbetan "character" in exile in india, primarily due to the Dalai Lama's personal attachment to Gandhi's stand) which are just "banal debates" that western liberal hegemony allows in the vigorous masquerade of attainable, democratic participation( as opposed to the "autocratic" chinese regime). no more than show, no less than "real" meaning..the fatal strategy is perhaps reflected in the number of terms that have had to be bracketed here in inverted commas..the dubiousness of each contention that has only been legitimised by the tyrannic language of history and of this harking back to those "" terms to legitimise the now..simulacrum through and through...thanks 4 the response..and hoping to hear more from you.