The recent protests in Tibet over Chinese rule have been met with a violent and deadly crackdown by the Chinese military, which in turn has been met with condemnation from the U.S., Europe, and other areas. Now, the E.U. has floated the idea of a boycott of the Chinese Olympics in August, and some in the U.S. are suggesting we do the same thing. It wouldn’t be the first Olympic boycott – the United States, along with other nations, refused to attend the 1980 summer games in Moscow, and the Soviet Union and its allies boycotted the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Needless to say, these boycotts accomplished hardly anything.
…and that’s why I’m hesitant to support a boycott this time. The Olympics are designed to be above politics, and, in my opinion, the two should only be mixed when it is very likely that something can be accomplished. China is very concerned about their image, so it is possible that a boycott could pressure them into at least loosening restrictions on Tibet, but for how long? And there is always the chance that China would simply not do anything. After all, concern about their image didn’t stop them from running over protesters with tanks ten years ago.
Simply put, I don’t think that refusing to run sprints in Beijing is going to reverse a five-decade old policy. Economic sanctions, political pressure, both are good ways to try and force change, but at least at this point, I think the athletes should be left out of it. In the meantime, if nations want to make a statement, follow the French lead and refuse to send political leaders to attend the games.