In light of the Tibetan escalation, the European Union is considering stepping up against China – EU Foreign Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner mentioned a possible boycott of the Olympic Games in Peking 2008. According to Ferrero-Waldner, all of us, especially Western corporations working in China, do have responsibilities in ensuring China respects human rights. The respecting of human rights and the concept of freedom of opinion and media are the underlying principles of international understanding and thereby of the Olympiad – since Ferrero-Waldner does not perceive these conditions to be present in China, she considers the possible boycott to be legitimate. China’s actions in the following weeks will be monitored and will lead to a decision about the EU’s role in this year’s games.
In this article, I will not attempt to judge on China’s actions in regard to human rights. It could certainly be argued that their measures are most brute, violent and contradictory to the Olympic spirit. However, let us consider the role of the Olympic Games. The Olympiad gives the world an almost unique opportunity to be in unison for a short period of time, regardless of wars and cruelties happening simultaneously. One could argue that the Olympics are therefore anyway not much more than a pretension of an idyllic, non-existent situation. We should, however, not forget that it is mainly politicians who are responsible for conflicts; people in the world are, essentially, all equal in their desires. It is Tibet and China that are in disagreement, not individual Tibetans and Chinese. In this sense, people themselves are much closer to the Olympic spirit of co-existence and unity than are politicians. In inflicting the current political situation on what has belonged to people so far, Ferrero-Waldner trivializes the concept of the Olympic Games. We should not give away this perhaps last event independent of cruelties happening. It is an icon of hope that one day; the world will be able to work together jointly.
On a more practical level, I would like to suggest that with today’s huge global problems, climate change being only one of them, we must start to collaborate if we do not want to face our own extinction. Events such as the Olympics are crucial in fostering international understanding. Progress can only be made if discussion and co-operation are present; a boycott eliminates these vital processes.
Andrea D. Mihic (Switzerland, AC07-09)
– United World College Student Magazine –