[Outlook]Let the Games go on

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[Outlook]Let the Games go on

The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. But it wasn’t until 35 years later, at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, that Chinese athletes first participated in the event.
China joined the International Olympic Committee in 1953, but in 1956, it didn’t participate in the Melbourne Games because Taiwan did. Because the Taiwan issue was not resolved to its satisfaction, China withdrew from the IOC.
It was reinstated in 1979, but in 1980, when the Games were held in Moscow, China again boycotted them, siding with the United States in a protest of the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
China is now hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. The Games are slightly more than 100 days away. But things are still not quite organized.
State leaders in other countries have decided to, or are thinking about, boycotting the event’s opening ceremony to protest against China’s violent crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators who have demanded independence.
Protestors have disrupted the torch relay in many places, prompting China to raise its voice and say that the Olympic Games should not be used for political purposes. It seems clear that history repeats itself.
The Olympic Charter adopted by the IOC states that the Olympic Games must uphold a pure spirit and not allow any type of discrimination. Article 1 stipulates that the purpose of the Olympic Games is to maintain peace and to contribute to the love of humankind. Article 3 states that individuals or countries shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion or political beliefs.
The more the IOC maintains that the spirit of the Olympic Games must be upheld, the more clearly it becomes how hard this is to do. Looking at the modern history of the Olympics, the years in which the Games were not used for some political purpose have been few.
Hitler held the Games in Berlin in 1936, soon after he took power, using the event as an opportunity to spread Nazi ideology. The Berlin Games are thus regarded as having done the most to tarnish the spirit of the Olympics. Former Korean President Chun Doo Hwan stopped at nothing to host the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. This is far from the innocent spirit that the Olympic Games pursue.
In the 1972 Games, the Munich Massacre took place. Israeli athletes were taken as hostages and a total of 17 people were killed.
Black September, the group that broke into the quarters of the Israeli athletes, demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners who were held in Israel.
In 1980, Moscow was the host of the Olympic Games. But 60 countries boycotted them, protesting the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
In the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, Eastern countries boycotted in turn, reducing the size of the event by half. Colin Moynihan, a rowing athlete for Great Britain who couldn’t participate in the Moscow Games, said that because politics found its way into the Olympics, he had to give up the dream of his life.
Why do factors other than sports come into play in the Olympics? Because the Games offer a chance to express one’s opinions worldwide. The entire world pays attention to the event, and journalists compete for news coverage. Many people go to great lengths to attract the media’s attention. In this context, people in Tibet staged demonstrations demanding independence about the time the Olympic torch was lit.
China ambitiously planned the longest torch route in history, but it has been disrupted by protestors along the way. In Paris, the torch was put out three times, and in San Francisco, the route was shortened.
In April 27, the torch relay goes through Korea.
However, many of the runners said they won’t participate. Human rights organizations plan to stage a large-scale rally to stop the relay. The police will not make the relay route public, and is even considering changing the route.
There is nothing wrong with expressing one’s opinions. The torch relay can be a good opportunity to do so. However, it is wrong to disrupt the relay. That is violence. Those who disrupt the relay use violence to protest against violence.
Some Koreans seem happy to see China in trouble because they have bad feelings about their neighbor, as it has attempted to distort the history of Northeast Asia, send North Korean refugees home by force and spread anti-Korean sentiment in the region.
Even if these allegations are true, the Beijing Olympic Games must be held successfully. The Olympic Games are meaningful because it makes people happy to see young, healthy athletes compete on the global stage, regardless of their ideologies or convictions.

*The writer is the editor of the special reporting team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Jang-hwan
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