From All on the Field sports blog:
Every other year, people from all over the world drop what they are doing, gather around a television, and watch the Olympics. Could there be a better platform for making a political statement?
Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, thinks so. To the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Games should be a two-week display of goodwill between the nations of the world. And Ueberroth, who as a representative of the United States reports to the IOC, refuses to diverge from that thinking.
> "We don't just go there, we get invited there. We accept the invitation, and then there's a set of rules that are IOC rules. We accept those rules. We expect and are sure that our athletes are going to respect their own country, respect their flag, respect the flag of every other country and operate as we all will, under the IOC rules of the Olympic Games."
If those aren't carefully chosen words, I don't know what are. It seems to me, though, that Ueberroth is forgetting that Olympic history is rife with political statements.
In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the Star Spangled Banner to show their solidarity with the Black Power movement. The USOC initially supported Smith and Carlos, but later agreed to ban them from the team when the IOC tightened the clamps.
In 1980, the United States and 61 other countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics altogether in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, many of the nations on the other side of the fence boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics, which Ueberroth was instrumental in organizing.
I'm not one to protest just for the sake of protesting, but as we can see, there is precedent for speaking out by way of an Olympic platform. And as we all know, there are many issues arising from China that activists, American or otherwise, might like to speak out against.
Communism, human rights, freedom of religion, and pollution are some of the headliners. There's also the fact that China buys much of its oil from Sudan, which has been less than effective in ending the situation in Darfur.
There are many injustices in the world, and the United States is responsible for some of them. But our country is and always has been a nation with strong values and principles, one of which is freedom of speech. And in my view, that freedom shouldn't be limited to the borders of the United States, nor the confines of debate between elected politicians.