Tuesday, February 12, 2008
WELCOME TO THE TOTALITARIAN OLYMPICS
he Olympic Games set to open on 08/08/08 will apparently be a nostalgic rerun of past games hosted by totalitarian states. Our stalwart friend Freedom of Speech will not be attending, as long as "progressive" national committees have anything to say about it.
First came the Belgian Olympic Committee's announcement, prohibiting its athletes from making any statements of conscience. The order said,
"Not a single participant in the Games will be allowed to give a political opinion at the Olympic venues."Then the New Zealand Olympic Committee got in on the action, barring Kiwi athletes from free expression in Beijing.
NZOC Secretary General Barry Meister said they, "will absolutely tell their athletes they will not be allowed to have a political opinion at the Olympics."Evidently it's common practice for New Zealand's athletes to be forced to sign a contract to that effect.
This stance by the quintessentially "progressive" leadership, which has governed New Zealand for a very long time, is pretty rich -- given that PM Helen Clark was so highly principled that she refused to send an official condolence to Indonesia on the death of that country's second president. I didn't like Suharto much either, but Indonesians won't soon forget such official rudeness from their neighbour. Practically the very next day, she was forced to defend New Zealand's friendly governmental cooperation with... the military junta in Burma. Which she did, in a very progressive style.
Canada, possibly because the "progressives" are out of power at the moment (and currently quite embarrassed enough, thank you, over its own Human Rights Commissions' punitive oversight of public speech), has granted athletes their full rights of expression. As does the United States of course, no need to ask.
According to these control-freak committees, belief and/or faith in the fundamental rights of human beings, has now become "political speech." That's news to me. As far as I can tell, the definition of fundamental human rights includes the concept that these rights cannot be given (they are inherent in each person, per the words themselves), but can only be taken away. By political means, and usually known as a human rights violation. Any expression of conscience affirming basic human rights is by definition, not political speech. However issuing orders to remove these rights on pain of punishment certainly is, and more.
Now, bringing shame on the Anglosphere, it's once leading light, the United Kingdom. The UK Olympic team must sign a "gagging order" prior to attending in Beijing this summer.
A new clause in the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) 32-page agreement states they should not comment “on any politically sensitive issues” and refers athletes to the International Olympic Committee charter which bans demonstrations or political, religious or racial propaganda in Olympic venues.Let's get this straight now. An expression of conscience about the rights inherent in humans, is banned "political speech," according to two western IOC members. The BOA now broadens the net with "political, religious or racial propaganda." Exactly which category does belief in basic human rights fall under again? And why should it be "politically sensitive"?
If the Chinese Communist Party leadership is sensitive about such truths, it's their problem and not anyone else's. There will of course be other participating states which share the Chinese sensitivities, but there is no need to kowtow to them either. They are a shrinking minority of nation states under dictatorships, and in these types of international activities, all should be expected to get with the program.
This is why the hosting of events like this should never be given to unfree countries, unless they promise to behave by basic civilised rules -- such as not restricting the freedom to express a fundamental concept of civilisation itself.
The photo above, of the English football team saluting Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was taken from a larger picture on display at This is London. This year's games are bringing back some inconvenient memories. The BOA chairman himself won his silver medal after refusing his own prime minister's call to boycott the Moscow games in 1980. But not all Brits in 2008 are willing to keep silent about China's abuse of its people's rights.
Former Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent has already criticised the Chinese authorities over the training methods used on children, which he regarded as tantamount to abuse.The Finnish Olympic Committee's secretary general, Jouko Purontakanen, has the issue right way around:
Young gymnasts told him they were repeatedly beaten during training sessions.
Mr Clegg [Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive] confirmed that such criticisms would be banned under the team's code of conduct, which will be in force from when athletes are selected in July, until the end of the Games on August 24.
Mr Clegg said: “During the period of the contract, that sort of action would be in dispute with the team-member agreement.
"We will not be issuing instructions on the matter. The freedom of expression is a basic right that cannot be limited."Exactly. As basic a right as this, is only limited by totalitarian thugs not by civilised people. The article notes that the British contract could potentially mean that any athlete who happens to see someone being mistreated in Beijing would be forbidden from speaking to anyone about it.
The likelihood of having to kowtow to the standards of a repressive one party state was at the root of opposition to giving the Olympics to Beijing. Assurances and promises were made at the time, that China would look very different seven years down the road. Yet over that period, suppression of conscience and religious expression have actually intensified in an effort to keep the lid bolted securely down, with an eye to gaining big national face from this very event. The Chinese Communist Party leadership should simply never be trusted to keep its word. This western collaboration in their efforts will bring nothing but shame.
UPDATE: Officials to review gag on Olympic athletes