Should China Be Barred From Hosting the Olympics?

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This week the International Olympic Committee will announce the host city for the 2008 Olympic Games, with Beijing, China, being one of those cities. As might be expected, there is a host of opposition to the games being in China, which is concentrated not only among the Neo-conservatives and their flagship newspaper, The Washington Times, but also the European Union, which has publicly complained about "human rights" violations by the Chinese government.

Before going further, let me acknowledge that the government of China is, indeed, repressive and murderous. (Story of the Year! Governments murder and repress! How shocking!) However, it was also even more murderous and repressive 30 years ago and longer when it was the darling of American and European leftists, the very leftists who now sit in seats of power in European governments which are at the forefront of condemning China’s efforts to host the Olympics. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, the Chinese communists ran the most oppressive government on the planet, as Mao Tse Tung and his hordes managed to make Adolph Hitler look like a humanitarian.

Yet, while Mao was marching people off to be slaughtered like cattle, American leftists like John Kenneth Galbraith and actress Shirley McClain doled out lavish praise about the communists after having visited the country — and its requisite Potemkin villages. Furthermore, Dorothy Day of the Catholic Workers Movement even called China the "most just" nation on earth, although in passing she did slightly question the "cost" of having to produce such a paradise.

Therefore, for leftists now to demand that China be barred from hosting the Olympics is hypocritical, to say the least. Furthermore, China is much more free — and has higher standards of living for the vast number of its citizens — than it had when that nation was the favorite destination of leftists making pilgrimages to yet another communist "utopia." Granted, the nation has accomplished these things largely by ditching most of communism — which, no doubt contributes to its current unpopularity with the left.

The Neo-conservatives have also been waging an anti-China jihad in an effort to derail any momentum towards the IOC choosing China. Through their conduits in TWT and the Fox News Channel, the neo-cons and their allies have blasted China’s human rights record, demanded a Chinese apology following the U.S. spy plane incident, and have pointed out (accurately, I believe) the brutality of that government’s "one-child" policy. A government that engages in these violations of individual rights should not be permitted to host something as noble as the Olympic games, they say. After all, since Russia has been exposed as the banana republic it has always been, the USA needs a new "superpower" enemy.

As a former athlete who has counted numerous U.S. and foreign Olympians as friends and teammates, I do hold respect toward the games. Millions of other people and I were rightly outraged in 1972 when Palestinians, aided by the treacherous Olympic athletes from East Germany, kidnapped and murdered 11 athletes from Israel. Unfortunately, many critics of that action condemned the Palestinians not for kidnapping, hostage taking, and murder, but rather because they had "politicized" the Olympic Games.

To say that something had politicized the Olympics is to deny that the Olympic Games by their very nature have been political tools all along. Granted, the IOC and everyone officially associated with the games have always contended that the Olympics are a celebration of athletic prowess, not politics. Yet, almost from the beginning, the Olympics have been used to further the aims of politicians.

While the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics comes to mind, please remember that IOC officials barred Germans from the 1920 games following the end of World War I. There was nothing constructive about the ban, except that it was simply another measure of political revenge that followed in the evil spirit of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Furthermore, the Soviet Union refused to field an Olympic team, saying that athletics were "bourgeoisie" activities not becoming of the "New Socialist Man" being created by the communists. It was only after World War II that the Soviets learned the political propaganda benefits of having good athletes, as the parade of communist champions helped make many in the West question whether or not a private property order was the best way to live.

Governments have also used boycotts to use the game to score political points. The African nations threatened to boycott the 1968 games if Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) were not kept out of the Olympics, their actions being "successful." The Palestinians committed their murderous outrage four years later. In 1976, the Africans demanded the ouster of New Zealand because a rugby team from that nation had played some games in South Africa, and when the IOC refused to kick out the Kiwis, the Africans made good on their threats, staying home instead of traveling to Montreal, Canada.

(I contend that the real reason for the boycott was that New Zealand had the world’s best 1,500-meter runner, John Walker. His closest challenger was Filbert Bayi from Tanzania, whose president, the totalitarian socialist Julius Nyere, was the boycott leader. Kenya, which is the home to some of the world’s best middle-distance runners, was also eager to rid the Olympics of the white Walker, who went on to win the 1,500 meters against the best that Europe and the United States had to offer.)

The Canadian government under socialist Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also joined in the politicking by refusing entry visas to the team from Taiwan. Officials from the Peoples Republic of China had objected to Taiwan’s presence and Trudeau was all too happy to accommodate their wishes. Again, sports became a tool of the political classes.

Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympics, and boycott fever heated up again. To protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter, who was in a heated election campaign, used his powers to keep U.S. athletes from participating. As one angered U.S. team member told me, "I resent being used as a pawn of Jimmy Carter’s re-election machine." (A number of my former teammates and friends had made the U.S. Olympic team that year, so the boycott affected them directly. Needless to say, they were not happy that the political classes of both political parties conspired to keep them home.)

In 1984, the Soviets and their allies got their revenge as they boycotted the games held in Los Angeles. Since then, however, the only boycott has been Cuba’s refusal to attend the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The political demons have been kept relatively quiet for the last three Olympiads.

I have no doubt that the government of China seeks to host the 2008 Olympics because communist officials believe they will receive political benefits. However, that would hardly disqualify China, since every other nation that hosts the games has sought political benefits. Nor would I leave out that most IOC members are socialists who are demanding now that the Olympics be pure government enterprises as opposed to the large role played by private firms and organizations in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta games. Since China is still officially "socialist," it would seem that the Europeans and other state worshipers on both the right and left would be thrilled to see the Olympics in Beijing.

As for the fact that China’s government imprisons dissidents and engages in other repressive measures should hardly be a disqualifying factor. After all, Atlanta hosted the Olympics just three years after the FBI gassed, burned, and shot 80 "dissidents" in Waco, Texas, an outrage that has received the official "seal of approval" from Republicans and Democrats as well as the mainstream news media.

In truth, governments murder and repress. That is their main function. Murder and repression in China is no different than murder and repression in the United States or the crypto-fascist European Union. Granted, the Chinese are less secretive about what they do and don’t assign "blue ribbon" commissions to whitewash their wrongdoing. They just do their evil out in the open for everyone to see.

If China is given the Olympics, more power to that country. I suspect that by 2008, China will be freer than it is now and will be a better place to live. Of course, if the USA and its evil European "allies" continue to demonize and isolate the world’s most populous nation, perhaps they will get their wish in a China that meets their expectations of repression.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], is assistant professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

© 2001

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