Boycott not in spirit of Games

Published 12:04 am Monday, July 14, 2008

By Staff
As a sports fan, there's no event that compares to the Summer Olympic Games. There is no other time when you can flip on the television and peruse an athletic buffet that runs the gamut from familiar sports like baseball to the more unusual pursuits like badminton and judo.
It is also an event that creates indelible moments in the minds of viewers. Just naming an Olympics instantly brings up the defining image of that year's games, whether good or bad. As a Southerner, I have a special place in my heart for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and so it should come to no surprise that the most memorable Olympic moments for me come from that year's Games.
I remember the opening ceremony and the lighting of the Olympic flame, when the world was treated to an amazing surprise as Parkinson's syndrome sufferer and The Greatest of All Time Muhammad Ali was chosen to light the cauldron. I remember watching little Kerri Strug land on a broken ankle following her dismount from the vault, finishing with a score good enough to win the U.S. gymnastic team the gold medal. And, yes, I remember the horrific scenes at Centennial Olympic Park the morning following the pipe bomb attack.
In essence, the Olympics is a perfect example of humanity itself. Isn't it true that we often have high ideals only to lose sight of them because of our weakness? But at the same time humanity has always shown a willingness to pick itself up off the mat and try again.
In the same way, the Olympics has often lost its way, but nothing has been able to completely kill off the Olympic spirit. Whether it was the horrible massacre of Israeli athletes by Arab terrorists in Munich in 1972, or the boycotts that handcuffed participation in the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Games, the Olympics have always endured.
The Games may face their toughest test yet in Beijing, where controversy has been the word of the day and there has been outcry that the U.S. and other nations should boycott the Games because of China's woeful human rights record. Some are comparing the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 1934 Berlin Olympics, when Hitler used the Games as a smokescreen to promote a modern Germany while actually using them to spearhead his ideas of Aryan supremacy.
A boycott at this time would hurt the athletes who have worked hard to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime chance. It would also do little but establish even more bad feelings between China and the Western world. Thirdly, it would destroy the Olympic ideal that politics should not play a role in the Games. There will be other ways to voice frustrations with China if its human rights do not improve, but the Olympics should and must go on.
Justin Schuver is news editor for The Andalusia Star-News.