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Olympic "Meddlers"

August 16, 2008 - Erik Brown

There’s so much to love about the Olympics: the drama of incredible athletic performances, the inspiring stories of tremendous personal sacrifice and dedication in pursuit of lifelong dreams, and the goodwill that flows from thousands of athletes from all corners of the world treating each other with respect and admiration. In many ways, the Olympic Games bring out the very best in the human race.

 

Sadly there are people who just don’t appreciate what the Olympic Games are all about. Much worse than that, some of these folks are politicians who abuse the power of their office to meddle in Olympic affairs (pardon the pun). With the Beijing Games just seven days old, we now have three documented instances of such meddling (sorry, did it again). To voice my protest of these despicable actions I hereby award the following “Olympic Meddles of Disgrace”.

The Bronze Meddle of Disgrace goes to Xinhua, the Chinese government’s news agency. Nine months before the Beijing Olympics, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week. In its report dated Nov. 3, 2007, Xinhua identified He as one of "10 big new stars" who made a splash at China's Cities Games. It gave her age as 13 and reported that she beat Yang Yilin on the uneven bars at those games.

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday, (August 14, 2008) morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible.

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics.

The Silver Meddle of Disgrace goes to U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Bill Shuster. A tie! Taking a page from the failed foreign policy playbook of Jimmy Carter, these two members of the United States Congress announced Thursday that Russia should be stripped of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for sending its troops into neighboring Georgia. Schwartz and the normally sensible Shuster will ask that Congress push the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pull the Winter Games from Russia and designate a new host city for the event.

"Russia's blatant violation of the long-respected 'Olympic truce' should be enough for the IOC to join with us in choosing a more worthy venue," Shuster said.

We can probably all agree that the situation in Georgia is very serious and the Russian invasion of that country is unacceptable, but this is so wrong, it’s embarrassing. First of all, the IOC alone chooses Olympic host cities. There’s no “joining” the U.S. Congress to choose “worthy” venues. Second, we’ve played this hand before and it’s a big time loser. In 1980 Jimmy Carter figured he’d teach the Soviet Union a lesson for invading Afghanistan, so he ordered the U.S. boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow. What good came from that? Zip, zilch, nada! The Russians didn’t budge an inch. What harm was done? Let’s see, our athletes had their dreams stolen, the American people were deprived of the thrill of seeing them compete, and the Soviet Union returned the favor in 1984, boycotting the Los Angeles Games and nearly derailing the modern Olympic movement. I’d say that qualifies as a monumental failure.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Friday the IOC believes the Olympic Games are not a tool to be used by politicians. She is spot on right. The Olympics are arguably the strongest force for goodwill among nations in the history of the world. The idea of placing the Games in the crossfire of this dispute is just plain reckless. Doing so will not achieve the intended purpose and will only harm the innocent.

The Gold Meddle of Disgrace goes to a member of the Chinese Politburo.

It was revealed earlier this week that 9-year-old Lin Miaoke actually lip-synced Hymn to the Motherland during the opening ceremonies. The real voice behind the photogenic Miaoke turned out to be that of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. Peiyi was scheduled to perform at the ceremony until Communist Party authorities deemed her not cute enough for the job. Then, when her replacement's vocal skills were found to be lacking, ceremony organizers decided to have it both ways: Peiyi's voice was played while Miaoke, stood before the crowd at the National Stadium and adorably moved her lips. I'm sure she was singing, but the microphone wasn't turned on.

The man who ordered the switch is believed to be Xi Jinping, the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, who is in charge of the Games organization and whose wife, Peng Liyuan, is one of China's best known professional singers.

“The reason was for the national interest,” Chen Qigang, the music director of the opening ceremonies, said in an interview. “The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.” Yeah, right. How many times have we heard these condescending explanations of how important respect and “saving face” are in Asian societies? What about these two innocent little girls, both of whom were used in such a cruel and shallow fashion, and what about the thousands of Chinese people who have poured their heart and soul into making the Beijing Games a triumph for China, only to have their efforts betrayed by a soulless politician?

Positive and yes, beautiful images enhance our experiences. It is appropriate and useful to value them, but not above truth. Enduring respect results from valuing truth above image.

 
 

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