TALKING SPORT WITH NEIL TRAINIS
PUBLISHED: 14:01 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 12:44 11 August 2010
POLITICS and sport have habitually been awkward bedfellows but the contentiousness of that relationship has been exacerbated immeasurably with the greatest sporting event just five months away. When the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing opens on August 8 it
POLITICS and sport have habitually been awkward bedfellows but the contentiousness of that relationship has been exacerbated immeasurably with the greatest sporting event just five months away.
When the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing opens on August 8 it is supposed to herald the start of one of the most colourful and exuberant celebrations of human endurance yet for many, goodwill and enthusiasm has been worn away against the backdrop of carnage and terror.
Those of us who love sport and are magnetised to it by the way in which it transcends boundaries, bringing together people of different nationalities, religions, creeds and colours, feel a mixture of anger and anguish at endless reports of violence against pro-Tibetans on behalf of the Chinese government.
Through the medium of television, the eyes of the world will shortly be on Beijing but intense focus is already on China and with every account of lost lives and iron-fisted aggression, the essence of the Games, its spirit, gradually withers away.
How the International Olympic Committee must cringe at its decision to allow Beijing to stage the globe's most spectacular sports carnival as each story of injustice emanates from Tibet.
The Chinese government have made concerted efforts to stop details of what is happening there and in nearby Chinese regions creeping out through the suppression of local and foreign media but they have not stopped the stench of atrocity seeping through the cracks.
Still we were confronted by reports of China flooding the streets of Lhasa, the traditional capital of Tibet, with riot police 10 days ago as pro-Tibetan demonstrators continued their struggle for independence in the face of brute force.
The worst riots in the city for 20 years ensued and at least 10 were reportedly killed. Overseas Tibetan groups suggested 36 died, including three monks. Suddenly, heaving a mass of weight at the end of a rope around the head and straining every sinew to cross a 100m line first appears nonsensical.
While that much is true, there is an argument which asks why athletes, who train rigorously throughout the year, putting their bodies and minds through all manner of torture, should be denied the chance to compete on the biggest sports platform of them all because of the ignorance and brutally of others.
Jacques Rogge, the IOC president caught in the crossfire of what is a rapidly growing moral issue - whether Beijing is fit to host the Games in light of the escalating violence and loss of life - has not come across convincingly in his attempt to justify his organisation's decision to hand the city the Olympics.
His suggestion that bringing the event to China has generated the publicity needed to bring the bloodshed to the attention of the world hints of a man frantically searching for some sort of justification while looking on in horror at what is unfolding in central Asia.
"Awarding the Games to China has put China in the limelight and opened the (human rights) issues up to the world. Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page," he said, in the style of a politician desperately trying to convince the public of the virtues of an ill-conceived policy.
As the big hitters line up to voice their opposition to China's strong-arm tactics, including the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose pleas to the country to show "restraint" have thus far fallen on deaf ears, the US, The United Nations and the European Union, Rogge may even claim some his words have been corroborated.
Yet Tibet is not the only issue dragging China, and the IOC, through the mud, the director Steven Spielberg recently withdrawing from his role as advisor to the Games' opening and closing ceremonies in protest over China's support of the Sudanese government and the escalating violence in Darfur.
Yet for all the haranguing Rogge has, and will continue to encounter, he did hit upon a pertinent point when describing the Games last week as "a force for good".
Amid growing fury there are those who want the Games abandoned this year. There are others who want to see it taken away from Beijing and switched to another city with adequate facilities and venues already in place, a proposition which would be virtually impossible to fit into a horrendously tight timescale.
Yet, however much the idea is detested, the Olympics should be left to Beijing. The mistake in awarding the city the Games has been made but that error would be unforgivably enlarged if the destructiveness of a repressive regime was allowed to disrupt the tradition of the grandest sports showpiece on earth.
Let's leave the prime ministers and presidents to handle human rights issues.