In an Olympic games year there is always much excitement leading up to the games. The host city and nation finish their venues and make way to welcome the world. Athletes work to qualify for the chance to win gold and media outlets around the world focus on the games.
This year the games start on Aug. 8 to 24 in Beijing and there has been much animosity with the communist country hosting. World leaders are debating whether they should make a political statement and boycott the games because of China’s many human rights violations.
Over the years boycotts are not unfamiliar at Olympic games. The most notable were the games that were held during the Cold War, in 1980 and 1984, when opponents boycotted each other’s games. Also during the Moscow games in 1980, 65 nations boycotted the games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1976, 26 nations boycotted after New Zealand was allowed to compete after their rugby team had played South Africa, which had been banned since 1964. Attacks have also been present during Olympic competitions including the 1972 Munich Games when a terrorist attack resulted in the deaths if 11 Israeli athletes. Terrorists also struck during the 1996 games in Atlanta when a bomb went off at the Centennial Olympic park killing two people and injuring 111.
The Olympic Charter states that the goal of the Olympic movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
When Beijing was awarded the games they said that it would help with the development of human rights. Although as the Olympics are quickly approaching a new report by Amnesty International says that little has changed. They report that some positive change has occurred such as reform of the death penalty system and a greater reporting freedom for foreign journalists have been overshadowed by stalled reform of detention without trial, repression of human rights defenders and Internet censorship. There has been a near total media blackout on Tibet and the surrounding area and Amnesty says that it is a betrayal of promises to ensure complete media freedom. A housing activist is serving time in prison for holding a demonstration because he was opposing the demolition of his property to make way for new construction for the Olympics. He was convicted of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.
These are just a few of the many situations that are occurring in Beijing and there are many more basic human rights being violated. With fear and hostility how can the games exemplify the charters mandate of promoting a peaceful and better world? It does not seem possible. The Olympics are a time to bring people together for a common cause, sport and peaceful celebrations. The games are supposed to bring change to the nation and help the people have more human rights thus far those changes have not occurred. Canada bid to host the 2008 games in Toronto and lost out in the final round 56 to 22 and Vancouver will host the winter games in 2010. Canadians can take pride in our freedoms and rights that have been entrusted in our Charter of Rights and Freedom. Hopefully at the Beijing games the peacefully mandate of the Olympic Charter will be present, political change is addressed but not the focus of the games and that Canada makes improvements on the fields and in the pools so our nation can watch as the Canadian flag is raised high after a gold medal victory.