Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Olympics, politics and sport

I started this post a few weeks ago and just hadn't finished it. But Justine Henin's recent comments about politics and sport got me back to it.

This article was focused on her complaint lodged with the WTA over Yuri Sharapov's cutting of the throat gesture during Henin's match against Maria Sharapova. Interesting story in itself though it seems nothing will come of it--officially that is. Though I have to imagine that Larry Scott WTA CEO will be having a chat with Sharapov about his courtside behavior.

But the second half is about Henin's recent comments that Olympics athletes should not involve themselves with the debate over human rights issues in China. "Politics and sport must remain separate" she said. She said she will be focusing on defending her gold medal and other Olympians should be equally focused on the "job" at hand which is being an athlete.

What kind of blinders are athletes wearing that allows them not to see how thoroughly entwined sport and politics are? Why does Henin think she is exempt from considering these issues because she's an athlete? The Olympics have always been about politics--always--all the way back to their inception. I get the feeling Henin probably doesn't bother to read about the arrests of political dissidents that I write about below. Interesting that Henin was recenly nominated for the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year Award. According to this story, "Laureus is a universal movement that celebrates the power of sport to bring people together as a force for good." She doesn't seem to care much for doing good--just for winning titles and medals.

The Chinese government is trying to crack down on political dissidents before the Olympic Games commence this summer. There have been thousands of arrests of citizens who are attempting to bring attention to the human rights violations occurring in the country. Most recently, an activist, Hu Jia, using the internet as the primary means of communication (in part because he was been placed under house arrest at various points in his life) was arrested and his wife and infant daughter remain under house arrest. He is likely to be charged with "inciting subversion of state power."

If the Chinese government's intent was to quiet all the dissent then arresting thousands knowing that the international media would pick up on it probably was not the best idea. I'm not sure what kind of "choice" they thought they had, but putting an infant under house arrest isn't a great move and then charging her father with inciting state subversion and not allowing him counsel as he is held in "private" just as you're trying to show how open you are, how westernized you've become, how deserving you are of hosting these games was not the greatest move. The international community is putting pressure on China to release Hu.


Diane said...

Cracking down on dissidents, siphoning water away from poor districts so that tourists will have plenty to use, and shooting and bludgeoning stray dogs and pet dogs--in front of their people--is how China "prepares" for the Olympics. Shame not just on Henin, but on every participating nation and athlete.

Sandra said...

Dissident groups being "cleaned up" for the Beijing Olympics include people with AIDS gathering together, or community groups who are trying to stop illegal pollution. The history of the modern Olympics has been at least as much about politics as athletics, and though I'm not an athlete, I'm working in Vancouver to make sure our homeless and forgotten citizens don't get "cleaned out" for the 2010 Winter Olympics--except our community can speak out about who is benefitting and who is suffering from these events.

Anonymous said...

i won't read your blog anymore.

Anonymous said...

you're a piece of shit. that's all.