A flawed Olympiad

Blame the I.O.C. for letting China renege on its promises.

The argument that China doesn’t deserve to host the 2008 Olympic Games because of its support of a genocidal regime, its stained human rights record, its opposition to free speech and its environmental problems indeed has serious merit. The host country assured the International Olympic Committee that it would clean up its act. Yet China instead pursued an embarrassing public relations campaign. It shut down smog factories only temporarily, violently quelled dissent and cleaned up its streets for good measure. Critics accordingly cried foul. What many fail to realize, however, is that China’s actions are a product of an international governing system that allowed them.

Those who incorrectly claim that the Olympics are apolitical – as President George W. Bush did – need to look no further than the I.O.C.’s charter. The Committee’s first principle seeks to “create a way of life based on Ö the educational example of and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” The I.O.C.’s mission, furthermore, states that organization’s roles include promoting peace, acting against discrimination and supporting responsible concern for environmental issues. This historically corrupt organization should hence not be exonerated from its decision to place what is supposed to be an internationally unifying event into the hands of a one state party whose disregard for “fundamental ethical principles” can be witnessed regularly in U.N. Security Council deliberations.

But it should come as no surprise that China reneged on its promises. China is a part a growing number of authoritarian capitalist regimes whose very governmental systems are directed by the whims of a party and fed by an insatiable appetite for capital. The I.O.C. should have presciently checked and enforced China’s development toward opening up its society from the time it awarded China the games in 2001. That way, it would have had time to threaten moving the Olympics to a country whose policies don’t blatantly contravene the organization’s founding charter. In that regard, the I.O.C. could be in an exceptional position to provide a global stage where Herculean athletes and Zeus-like rulers alike have to play by the rules.