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Flaming Out in San Francisco


The Olympic flame is back in California, bypassing its usual destination, Los Angeles, for San Francisco in what’s clearly one of the most controversial Olympic Torch relays since the idea was first hatched by the Germans 73 years ago.

The Olympics and its global torch relay, have almost always been an opportunity to celebrate global unity and the hope that there can be peace on earth – if only for a couple weeks. Unfortunately for the International Olympic Committee and the organizer of Beijing’s Summer Games of 2008, the relay has been anything but peaceful.

While the Olympics are, on their surface, about sports, their international nature means that the events cannot be decoupled from global politics. China has been looking towards Bejing 2008 as its debutante ball on the stage of global superpowers, expecting to be welcomed with open arms like the toys it produces are welcomed at America’s ports.

But in London and Paris, protestors disrupted the pomp, reminding the world of China’s horrible record on human rights and the environmental catastrophe that the fast-industrializing nation has inflicted on its citizens and the world. It took the running of the Olympic torch to remind us that Tibet has not been free for the past seven years, nor have the Chinese people for that matter.

Today, San Francisco, a city not known to stand on the sidelines of global protest, is bracing for the worst.

I, for one, am glad to see the protests. Finally, the world is realizing that evil exists and that President George W. Bush is not at its root!

The contrasts between Paris and Beijing, between San Francisco and Shanghai, and between London and Lhasa, could not be greater. Here in California, we consider what we can do to fight climate change, we are asking ourselves why China should get a free ride. As California debates whether to grant marriage equality to all of its citizens, China is oppressing millions of its own.

The International Olympic Committee is now debating whether to ditch the torch relay altogether in order to avoid the embarrassment of further protests. That is the wrong move. If the torch relay has become a symbol of totalitarianism and oppression in 2008, it is not the torch relay’s fault, it is Beijing’s.

If the torch makes it all the way to Beijing, be prepared for the comparisons to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany – the folks who came up with the idea of the torch relay. Back then, apologists argued that the games should be about the sports, but the games were really a way to mollify the world into thinking that Germany wasn’t so bad after all. That’s despite the existence of forced-labor camps.

Hillary Clinton and other politicians shouldn’t be calling on the world to boycott the games’ opening ceremonies in Beijing, they should be calling on the Olympics to boycott Beijing. Sure it is late in the day but if the last week has been any indication, the IOC should consider moving the games to a more freedom-loving place, somewhere that has the experience to host the Olympics and be ready on day one.

I know: Let the Games Begin on 08.08.08…in Los Angeles!

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 5:10 AM | Permalink

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