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Monday, April 7, 2008

Olympic Torch Snuffed 3 Times in Paris

Apparently, attacking the Olympic torch is the new way to show displeasure with China hosting this summer's Olympic games. In both Paris and London human rights activists tried to put it out, or grab it, or throw water on it. (Not sure what they were going to do with it if they did get a hold of it). Paris security officials had to extinguish the torch three times to "keep it safe."

I can't imagine that being the reaction in the United States. We're all for human rights, but the Olympics always fails to inspire our ire. Jimmy Carter still hasn't lived down his infamous decision to boycott the USSR Olympics in 1980 and that decision was made at the height of the Cold War.

Carter made the decision after the Soviets invade Afghanistan. In a CNN look back on the boycott one athlete described his reaction this way:

"The decision stunned Dick Buerkle, a U.S. distance runner who had qualified for the 1980 team -- and who learned of the boycott when he saw it on the news.

'I don't think I saw it coming, no. It was kind of a shock,' [Dick Buerkle, a U.S. distance runner] says. 'I was angry. I was a Russian minor in college, so ... the thought of going there for an extended period of time was exciting to me.'"

I think as Americans we'd always prefer to hash out our differences on the court, or the ice. Is there any greater moment in American Olympic history than when the U.S. beat the Russians in the Miracle on Ice game? This occurred during the 1980 Winter Olympics. Is there any more reviled moment than when the USSR stole the Gold Medal from the U.S. at the 1972 Summer Olympics? Sport provides the battlefield for nations that need to confront their tormentors.

The more effective tactic, and the one we've seen work the best, is banning countries from competing in the Olympics. South Africa eventually desegretized its nation, in small part due to the international backlash. Plus, who can resist the desire to compete? Witness the 1978 Mormon "revelation" from their prophet that blacks were suddenly acceptable when BYU realized it needed to be able to recruit athletes of all races (among other reasons).

It's nice that human rights activists want to bring awareness to the situation in Tibet, but I think the better route is shedding a light on China by going there. An isolated nation lives in shadow.

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