Olympic boycotts only hurt athletes

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Democratic countries should not boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in protest of China’s communist government and occupation of Tibet.

I understand where many countries are coming from by suggesting they should hold back from the Games, saying their participation would support a brutal government and an outdated colonial attitude, but the world just doesn’t work that way.

A boycott by North American countries in 1980 didn’t topple communism and a 1984 boycott by the Soviet Union sure as hell didn’t replace the almighty dollar with the hammer and sickle. The 1970s’ boycott threats in order to ban South Africa weren’t exactly the defining factor in abolishing apartheid 20 years later.

What I’m getting at is: Olympic boycotts don’t work. If democratic countries boycott the 2008 Games, China will still be communist come this fall and Tibet will still be under its control.

So don’t punish the athletes who’ve worked hard to get to the Olympics in order to make a political statement.

Instead, I’m highly in favour of heads of state and high-ranking officials boycotting the opening ceremonies. It gets the proper message across, but it doesn’t hurt the athletes whom the Games are really about.

Most importantly, it’s an action by politicians, not athletes. The days of political battles being fought in the boxing ring and the hockey rink are better reserved for the ’30s and ’80s.

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