By Tessa Trafford
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games–a dream come true for China. The Games is the ultimate opportunity for China (or any country lucky enough to host the Olympics) to show off a bit. Look at how much of a fuss we are making over the 2010 Soccer World Cup and now imagine what the Chinese are feeling about hosting the Olympics. This really is China’s opportunity to shine, a chance to show the world what they are really capable of. However, there is a large thorn in China’s side – Tibet.
Tibet is essentially protesting against human rights violations and the ‘illegal’ occupation of Tibet by China. For those of you who secretly can’t even place Tibet on a map, there has been a history of Tibetans protesting the occupation of China. These uprisings are often brutally suppressed by Chinese forces. However, this time around it would be to China’s detriment to continue bullying Tibet. China simply has too much at stake. Hosting the Olympic Games means that all eyes are on China. Even with China’s attempts at diplomacy there is a huge cry to boycott the Olympics. Worldwide people are protesting against the Beijing Olympics.
The Olympic torch’s journey through the countries participating in the Games has been severely disrupted. Huge protests in Paris caused the final leg of the torch parade to be cancelled. Demonstrators in London lined the streets shouting “Free Tibet” and “Shame on you China” during the torch parade. In San Francisco security for the famous Olympic torch was increased and, due to mass demonstrations, the route the torch was to take had to be changed.
You don’t have to major in politics or economics to understand that a boycott of the Olympics will have a negative impact on China. With people refusing to go to the games for political and moral reasons, the tourism industry will be severely affected. Hotels will not be filled as expected. Airlines that have created more flights to China especially for the Olympics will face a loss of profits. It will be a battle to fill stadiums which have cost millions of dollars to build. With tourism generating large sums of money, boycotting the event will be a blow to China’s economy as this was a major investment. It will also damage China’s international relations. With European leaders contemplating boycotting the opening ceremony, all China’s efforts at showing the world that they are ready to be a player in determining global politics will be in vain. These are, however, only the short term consequences. Amy Green, a first year BA student said, “If I were an athlete it would feel immoral going to the Olympics. It would be condoning China’s behaviour in Tibet. I would definitely boycott the Games.”
But what about the long-term consequences? With China emerging as a strong competitor to be the next world super power, the boycotting of the Games could be disastrous for them economically. It will also impact China’s political situation. The Olympics has caused more awareness of China’s behaviour in Tibet to spread. Protests from around the globe could mean that organisations, such as the United Nations, may be forced to take more severe action towards China, affecting their international relations.
However, not everyone thinks that the crisis in Tibet will affect this year’s Olympics in Beijing. Robert Schirie, professor of Politics at UCT said, “What the Tibetan uprising has done is inflame passions in China but not in the Western world. The Tibetans have been very skillful in manipulating the crisis.” Schirie feels that, for economic reasons, “countries such as Japan and the USA don’t necessarily want to cross China”.
China will feel the full effect of the crisis in Tibet if athletes, spectators and politicians decide to boycott. At present there are numerous Facebook groups geared towards gathering members in a world protest against the Olympics in China.
Speaking to Roland Rutihinda, a second year BA student, he said, “If I were an athlete I would boycott the Games because I believe that every country should have their freedom and independence if they want it.” Whether or not a mass boycott of the Olympics does in fact take place still remains to be seen.
Do you think that there should be a global boycott of the Olympics in Beijing? Or do you think that the Western states are just being hypocritical with their condemnation of China’s occupation in Tibet? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think.