by Roland Watson
July 2001

It is common when activists suffer defeat, that they put on a brave face and try to view things in a positive light. (After all, we are optimists.) This was the case with the Supreme Court decision which overturned the Massachusetts Burma purchasing law, and now that the 2008 Olympics have been awarded to China, we must face the same type of situation again. And make no mistake about it, this was a defeat. It was the parting gift of one dictator, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the IOC, to the leading political dictatorship on the planet. It lends legitimacy to a regime which not only represses its own people, and those of Tibet and Xinjiang, but also directly supports dictatorial repression in such nations as Burma, North Korea, Pakistan, and also most of the other nations of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore. Further, this is a regime that recently celebrated its 80th anniversary with the announcement that it will always be a one-party state, i.e., a dictatorship.

The idea underlying this constructive engagement with China is that it is acceptable for it to be a dictatorship. It is acceptable for 1.2 billion people to have no voice and to live in fear. But maybe, if we appease the dictators, give them presents - really, beg to them and kiss their feet - then perhaps they might treat their subjects - victims - just a little bit better.

One hopes that someday the proponents of constructive engagement will describe the precise mechanism, and time frame, by which the dictatorship will be transformed into a democracy.

Fortunately, there is a clear silver lining to this horrible decision: it paves the way for seven years of very high profile anti-dictatorship activism. And to get a good start on this, it is of the utmost importance that we get organized now. We should strive for the following:

- Just as we still need the first nation to implement the call from the ILO for sanctions against Burma, we need the first elite athlete to say that he or she will not participate in these new “Hitler Games.” Even more, we need to introduce the view into the athletic community that the Olympics, when hosted in such a nation, are illegitimate. China engages in so many wrongs, including “sports” wrongs: the stealing (or buying) of young children with the right genetic characteristics, and then turning them into state-raised sports slaves. There is no reasonable basis, at all, for allowing this country to be the host. We must convince the athletes of the world to lead a widespread boycott of the games. They should take an ethical stance: they should refuse to participate. Which begs the question, what if they gave an Olympics, and nobody came?

- There should be a widespread consumer boycott of all the companies which choose to sponsor the Games. We must pressure all potential sponsors to withdraw. (We could make an announcement, now, organized and signed by the many interested groups, that all companies which sponsor the Olympics or advertise during its broadcast will be subject to massive boycotts.)

- We should encourage all manner of creative, freelance activism, against China and the Games, including of the direct action variety.

If the above can be organized, this will greatly increase the publicity of the debate about the Games in China. The dictators’ present victory will turn into a bitter defeat. Indeed, this is an opportunity to make a frontal asault on the entire Olympic movement. The Olympics, as presently conducted, deify and commercialize sport: they are one of the bedrock pillars of the value that competition is good. What better way to fight competition, which is an integral part of the foundation of our diseased society, than to bring down one of its most important, and symbolic, legs?


© Roland O. Watson 2001-3