The Beijing Olympics are over, and were a huge success. China showed the world its new face; a face that is contemporary, prosperous, and fresh. Pre-Games worries were proved unfounded—the air quality was acceptable, there were no protests, the Games went without a hitch. The Bird’s Nest stadium was staggering, the Chinese natives appeared prosperous, and China proved that it is an economic and cultural force to be reckoned with.
Chinese athletes did quite well in the Games as well. They got more gold medals than any other nation (with, perhaps, a little help from the officials), and finished second in the overall medal count. Two non-Chinese athletes made the Beijing Olympics memorable as well—Michael Phelps won an unprecedented eight gold medals, and Usain Bolt set three world records. If the Olympic Games are any indication, and they are, China has arrived.
Americans agree—they tuned in to watch the Games in record numbers. NBC got incredible ratings for the Games, which were evidently the only TV event in town, as the other networks found themselves facing record low ratings. Michael Phelps’ quest for gold became one of the biggest sports stories of the decade (Phelps has more Facebook fans than anyone else now, including Barack Obama).
What with all the record ratings and flawless execution, does anyone remember that China is still a Communist dictatorship that that brutally represses free speech, tyrannizes Tibet, and is responsible for millions of deaths around the world? There was, you may remember, a great deal of debate about whether a neuve-Nazi regime should host the Olympics, and degree to which other nations should condemn it. But after Michael Phelps started making headlines, and the Redeem Team started winning games, the debate was settled—other nations should remain completely silent. Massacring innocents is one thing, but that sort of thing really shouldn’t interfere with sports.
Remember, China is perhaps the most brutal regime in the world. The government in control of the country is the same one that crushed the Tiananmen Square protesters. It is one of most aggressive opponents of free speech in the world—visiting reporters are kept on a short leash. Its environmental record is abominable—China’s pollution levels make Los Angles look pristine by comparison. The massacres in Darfur are rightly considered one of the most devastating humanitarian catastrophes in decades—and guess who’s behind those massacres. But one seems to care anymore. As long as China does a good job on the Olympics, they are regarded a government that is maybe a bit “wary of dissent,” rather than a regime on the order of Nazi Germany.
No one remembers today, but the 1932 Olympics were considered a success for Germany. (Jesse Owens’ accomplishments did, perhaps, embarrass the Nazis, but not all that much). The Games showed that Germany was an exciting, emerging power—one that had a few human rights issues, such as suppression of dissents and some anti-Semitism (remember, the Holocaust hadn’t started yet), but definitely a reasonably open and prosperous country. And same process is happening with China.
Personally, I didn’t watch any of Olympics, outside of a few minutes while channel surfing. I didn’t plan on avoiding them, or even make any real effort to. (And I confess that I find sports like water polo to be, quite frankly, boring). But I really couldn’t watch for long, knowing that the Olympics, for all their drama, amounted to a propaganda victory for China.
Not that there is anything wrong with watching the Olympics—after all, these have been some of the best Games in recent memory. But there is something wrong with watching the Olympics and forgetting what China really is—and I fear that many Americans did just that.
Ultimately, though, the bulk of the blame should rest on the international community. By giving the Olympic Games to China, the world implicitly endorsed China’s actions—the repression, the murders, the environmental rape, the massacres in Darfur. (Yes, there were some conditions attached, but China more or less ignored them). All countries are not equal—some are perfectly innocent (such as Great Britain, which will mercifully host the 2012 Games), such are evil, brutal empires. China is one of the latter.