Olympic hosts can’t downplay shabby record

Freedom New Mexico

The eyes of the world will be on Beijing on Friday for the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games — festivities which typically are matched in pageantry and pompousness only by the Super Bowl halftime show.

The athletic events will take place over the next couple of weeks.

American fans, no matter whether they know the difference between a discus and dressage (one’s a heavy Frisbee, the other involves horses and elaborately dressed riders), typically tune in to watch athletes they have not heard of compete in sports the viewers haven’t watched since the previous Olympics.

Along the way we’re certain to see, as stated so eloquently by the late Jim McKay, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” — multiple times.

The Olympics serve as a global stage for two distinct groups. Obviously, they are a platform for the athletes, many of whom toil to excel in sports that are at the fringes of the athletic landscape.

The Games also bring attention to the host city and nation. With these games taking place in Beijing, the Chinese government has pulled out all the stops in its effort to win over those critical of its shabby record in the areas of human rights, pollution and free speech, its treatment of Tibet and its support of Sudanese officials accused of the genocide in Darfur.

On Wednesday, officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington alienated even more of those critics by revoking the visa of U.S. speed skater Joey Cheek, a Winter Olympics gold medalist who, as reported by Agence France-Presse, “was to go to Beijing to support those who signed onto Team Darfur, a coalition of current and former athletes who are seeking to use the Olympics to pressure China over its alliance with Sudan’s government.”

China has been openly critical of those who would link politics with the Games, but John Hoberman contends in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine that the two have been bedfellows for decades:

“The (International Olympic Committee) has repeatedly caved in and awarded the games to police states bent on staging spectacular festivals that serve only to reinforce their own authority.” The most jarring example of this was Berlin getting the 1936 Games, which Hitler used to propagandize that his regime was tolerant and peaceful.

When you consider that Chinese officials have rounded up activists and homeless people and banished them to the outer provinces to project a better image of their nation to the world, it is rather hypocritical for Beijing to cry over political posturing.

It would seem they are going for the gold in that event.