Sunday, April 27, 2008

Olympics & Politics

There are many of us sports fans and purists who just love to see a sporting event unfold dramatically with lots of on the field and off the field stories to digest. But, there is one sporting event that always seems to attract off-the-field drama of a different kind. The Olympic games seem to be pursued by politics all the time.

Now, it is China's turn to face the music. Hosting the Olympics is a matter of pride for any nation. Certainly in the case of this emerging power, it is an opportunity to showcase the arrival of China as a nation of significance economically and politically. But, it was inevitable that in this Olympic year some political issue would have grabbed the limelight.

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about mixing politics with sport. This friend was insistent that the Tibetan issue should be kept out of the Olympics and the torch relay should not have been marred by the disrespectful pro-Tibet groups.

I believe that we are not in a position to dictate which way politics would flow. Whenever there is an issue that deserves to be highlighted it is inevitable that groups involved in politics would pick whichever medium enables them to exhibit their message as widely and as effectively as they can. There is simply no point in insisting that politics should not be mixed with sports. Whether the organizers of the sporting event like it or not and whether fans like it or not, the political groups will simply attempt to hijack the event in the desparate attempt to get media attention.

The torch relay presented the perfect opportunity for pro-Tibet activists to make a point about their cause all around the world. If the Olympic committee intended to avoid politics, they should have simply cancelled the relay. This wouldn't have been a case of losing out. It would simply have been a security issue. And the political issue that they are so worried about would not have received the kind of airing that it got.

The point i'm making is that we cannot keep politics out of the Olympics or plead that it be kept out. It is going to always seek the platform that would give it the most limelight. The Olympics is the most ideal sporting event for that.

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