German Chancellor to boycott Beijing Olympics

The news that the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is not attending the Olympic Games is a reminder that there is a lot more to boycotts than governments telling athletes they can’t go.

According to the report, the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, and the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, have also stated they will not attend the Opening Ceremony. Germany’s Foreign Minister and Sports Mininster are also not attending.

“The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate,” Tusk said. “I do not intend to take part.”

Reports have also started to appear of torch bearers in the Olympic relay in various places pulling out or considering doing so. (UPDATE: 4/4 – the captain of India’s national football team, Bhaichung Bhutia, is reported to have refused to carry the Olympic torch during its planned procession through Delhi later this month).

Steven Speilberg’s decision to pull out of his role is another high-profile example of a non-athlete taking action.

Most of us have the capacity to put pressure on some of the companies who are seeking to profit from the Olympics, whether it be corporations like Coca-Cola, MacDonald’s or General Electric, or media organisations, to take a public position in support of the human rights of the people in China.

Even if it involves speaking out, rather than just not engaging, it can all make an impact. A month or so ago, I participated in a segment on Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s morning TV show discussing this issue. It was promoted in part by a cover story on a sports magazine, titled 20 Reasons We Should Boycott the Olympics. (This was all well before the latest Tibet crisis blew up).  I was accompanied by a sports journalist and a former Olympian, both of who not surprisingly were against a boycott. Interestingly, the former Olympian, Nicole Livingstone, used the example of the Black Power salute on the medal dais by two US athletes as an example of the positive impact athletes can make by using their position to speak out on injustice, rather than just not attending. To me, a boycott is not just about ‘to go or not to go’ – it is about looking for ways to increase awareness about serious human rights abuses in a way that will increase effective pressure for positive change. There are many different ways to do this – speaking out is one of them.  I don’t mind greatly what method people choose.

I know it’s a difficult issue and boycotts are a blunt instrument, but I also don’t think it’s good enough to suggest it has nothing to do with us, or there’s nothing we can do, or just dismiss the issue with shallow platitudes like “sport and politics shouldn’t mix”.  Sport and politics often mix, and few places more so than the Olympics. The Berlin Games under Nazi Germany in 1936 is not an unreasonable example to examine. This Games is where the modern Olympic torch relay was first used.

Even though I believe people should give serious consideration to boycotting or disengaging from aspects of the Beijing Games due to the atrocious human rights record of the Chinese government (and the fact that this human rights performance has not improved significantly since the games were awarded to Beijing), I don’t think people should simply be told they can’t go.

The Olympics is about people, not governments. I don’t expect the IOC to lead the charge on international political issues either – it’s not their role. Although I do think they do have to ask themselves exactly how much weight their “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” are meant to have, given it includes principles such as:
• Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
• The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity
• Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement

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  1. I find it difficult to believe the German government on this matter,simply I think the concern is dressage for economic matters of the European Economic Community.Whatever Chinas violations are of human the Germans always appear dignified as government when there are protestors!? They seem to like seeing the riot gear and shields as law enforcement!The two other leaders are suspect to me,and I doubt their attitudes are to protect their countries,they are locked,as far as I can tell into a U.S.A. view of China,rather than a view that is solely independent.Rudd confirms this view,that I am accepting,[but not Rudds view]by suggesting he likes the middle-of the road approach,and the U.S.A. is on the powerful Right.I think China is in self-inflict mode,when they use their own personnel in anti-Tibetan pro Tibetan,instead of being the ants pants of Countries on Human Rights,they are not holding up well to scrutiny.

  2. It is quite a pity. Everyone should have a more objective view torwards the riots happened in Tibet. Most of the information we get is from the mass media such as CNN, BBC. However, the following link is one of the link that help us to see this problem from another side. Everyone could have his/her own standpoint and views, but objectivity is what we really needed.

  3. I’m a bit worried…If we go down this road and boycott the games…isn’t it going to upset the Chinese People who will only understand what the Party will tell them ?

  4. Merkel is a hypocrite – she just went to Israel and raved about what a wonderful relationship they have with Israel. I wonder how the survivors of the holocaust committed by her mob and the Palestinians felt about having here there.

    The Palestinians wouldn’t know of course because like Israel she didn’t even notice they exist.

    Hypocrites and liars all of them in the west.

    Why is it only human rights abuse when “they” do it and now when we do it?

  5. Marilyn,at last week was a presentation of the holocaust story by a young man who was born a Jew who was a Holocaust denier,until either a Jewish organisation or skin heads he suggested got to him.In his presentation,and even mentioning a American Jewish Professor,the young man then,didnt say Jews werent killed by Germans,only the gas chamber matters just didnt happen.Whatever you make of concentration camp survivors,you do not have to conclude they are liars if these events didnt take place.People disappear,authorities move people,and viewing herding of people now by authorities is common place.The world after the war wanted to be fair to Jews,but the unfair reality to Jews happened elsewhere in camps of refugees and, a Military man,according to the video I saw ,was ashamed by the American treatment of these refugees.The China story of human rights abuse may have not started yet,if in fact all Tibetans get forced out of their land by real estate matters where a mountain address,is like everywhere, of high value.There is little point in criticising the Chinese for wanting something like that,but they can certainly make sure Tibetans have a home and worthy income as Tibetans,by training them up thoroughly to be part of the modern China and ,thoroughly Tibetan as well.It is simply an intellectual problem for China rather than a geo-political one,and the law enforcement processes of China have been corrupted somewhat,self inflicted..the Chinese can do better,and need to challenge themselves to do just that.

  6. Philip do you know what is in the holocaust museum regarding the meeting in Evian in 1938 and Jewish refugees from Germany?

    “as we don’t have a racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one”.

    The St Louis was denied by us as well, Menzies, Churchill, Truman and the west in general thought Hitler was a lovely chap and when Jewish refugees came as the Dunera boys we locked them up.

    The only reason the west now supports the hyprocrites and murderers in Israel is because we didn’t want them.

    We even took some to the high court a couple of years ago claiming they didn’t deserve our protection because they could have gone to Israel from Russia instead of here.

    It was fortunately thrown out but I can guarantee you that if Tibetan refugees arrived without papers today they would be locked up for years and years without trial or charge.

    The problem with human rights and the records of certain countries is that we refuse point blank to look at our own.

    That is why the Murdoch hacks keep demonising Hicks, so they don’t have to admit they support the torture of Australian citizens by our allies.

  7. All power to the Germans and torch bearers for having a bit of guts!

    It’s amazing what even a couple of people can achieve by speaking out at appropriate times.

    It might not seem like much to other people, but it seems that I have recently scored a major win for the empowerment of adults – replacing “adult abuse” by children.

    Next I am writing to the Minister for Ageing with some suggestions on how to deal with shonky service providers and mass walkouts by nurses.

  8. Mr Lu who says this is sad and that we should have an objective view:
    What is sad is the multitude of Tbetians killed in 57 years. The millions of Tbetains displaced in those 57 years- not simply atten ding an olympics. Since you dont value the life of those Tibertains you dont even know what is sad and not. come to the real world- become a democarcy and then we will listen to you.

    Then CNn and BBC are spreading misinformation?- nonsense. If you want to prove what you said allow media to rtoam freely in tibet and China like any other democracy. They- the media will find out for themselves what really happenned. your state propaganda video shows only Chinese dressed as Tibetians and killing innocent people. Honestly that is sick behavior – and you want to justify all that?. We dont need to learn democracy, freedom and values from a dictatorship which tramples on human rights. Become a democracy and then preach. Ok?.

  9. Tom: no need to worry. Because political correctness brings only temporary benefits. In the long run it only begins ruin. The truth and righteousness always wins.

  10. I think there should be consistency. I recall the Fraser Govt calling for a boycott in the 80’s when Russia invaded Afghanistan. The call for boycotts is hypocritical because, as the sticker on my car said,”Malcolm’s wool keeps the Russians warm” – it was true!I bet we wouldn’t stop imports or exports, so it’s just asking one group of people to make the sacrifice. China shouldn’t have been given the Games until they proved their change in human rights!For that matter, as the US/Britain & Australia are responsible for the deaths of over 1 million people in Iraq, or even hundreds of thousands(depends who you want to believe) doesn’t that make us hypocrites? We invaded Iraq on a lie, have killed so many, displaced 4 million & reduced the country to a shambles. I don’t think we have any right to take the high moral ground on human rights. The methods of the occupation has broken how many of the Geneva Conventions?
    Essential services, health, schools, cluster bombs not detonated,Depleted Uranium, in fact the US has just refused to provide medical help for those affected by nuclear tests in 50’s,60’s in the Pacific!The US refuses to sign the treaty on land mines,and the use of nuclear weapons is ‘still on the table’. Let’s be fair dinkum! My heart goes out to Tibet, and Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America ???

  11. P.S. The US and Canada refused to sign an agreement to guarantee water? Can you believe that? I get so sick of the ‘West’ pointing the finger at China, Nth Korea, Iran, Syria not to mention the Palestinians and Venezuela while the US PATRIOT Act, the renditions to Egypt, Europe,Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, the detention without even charges for 21/2 years of David Hicks & Mamdouh Habib, Dr Haneef etc has and is still a disgrace!

    It’s obviosly OK for the US to have allies in both Iraq & Afghanistan, but those countries who call on their friends & neighbours are called ‘terrorists’? Why do we have embassies & Diplomats in Iraq? It’s ludicrous unless the intent is to divide the spoils, in this case OIL! That wasn’t put before the UN or the rest of the world – in fact,OIL has only been mentioned by Brendan Nelson when he was Defence Minister, and then he got slapped over that comment. I’m sick of the hypocrisy, and treating me as an idiot; that the only means for information is out of George W’s or Cheney’s mouths! No wonder the White House would like to get rid of the Internet – they can’t control what I read – YET!

    The nonsense over Zimbabwe (which I think is appalling) while the US has interfered with or intervened (invaded)over 45 countries since the end of WW2. Venezuela will possibly join Nicaragua, el Salvador, Chile,Guatemala etc.The US is interfering as we speak in a democratically elected government. Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)and/or his party have been re-elected about 10 times in 8 years!El Salvador’s elections are due soon – watch & listen to Bush threaten the people about voting for a left wing government – again!Threatened to stop ex-pats monies from the US to their families-it’s worth millions to that impoverished country!

    If Robert Muggabe is such a tryrant,which he is, why haven’t we done something before this?The US has installed dictators as bad or worse in Latin America?Saddam?Hypocrisy!

  12. That there is inconsistnet and hypocritical actions by governments and individuals is self evident and hradly somethign to froth about.

    Clearly they all act in what they perceive to be their self interest, just as we do as individuals. No one at all contributing to this thread would not be receiving some benefit from that which we seek to either condone or condem.

    Perfection is reserved obviously for the very few Jesus Christs of the world.

    Andrews point is valid that the degree of abuse is the onyl sensible way oen can try to negotiate a path throught the obvious inconsistenceis of world affairs. If not, whats the altrernative – sayaonara

  13. I wonder how many people would have been happy to come to Australia if they knew we had aborigines in 4th world conditions hidden from sight and refugees in concentration camps out in the desert while pretending to be a lovely, welcoming place?

    Shall we shame London now and boycott them in 2012 for the obvious lies about Iraq and the millions dead from bombings, starvation, sanctions and occupation over the past 18 years?

  14. Ken says:
    April 4th, 2008 at 2:18 pm
    “That there is inconsistnet and hypocritical actions by governments and individuals is self evident and hradly somethign to froth about.”
    I disaagree Ken.The fact is,that other countries “froth about” those they wish to invade-eg Iraq,and use a lie or group of lies.(Interesting program tonight SBS 8.30pm-4 parts on Bush’s War)After the first gulf war,of which there were 30 tons of Depleted Uranium left to cause cancers & birth defects,over 1 million died in that & the yrs of the sanctions,500,000 of them kids.This time,there’s 300 tons of Depleted Uranium,so the horror keeps on keeping on.It’s only due to the US sanitizing most of what comes out of Iraq(they learnt from Vietnam-(US warmongers agreed,that the war footage played a role in stopping the war)won’t make the mistake of human horror’spoiling’our evening meals this time)that there haven’t been more world wide protests like Feb 2003.
    So,when you Ken or Andrew speak of the “degree of abuse” you need to remember that it all depends on what we’re allowed to see or be told.Over 1.3 million from 1992-2003,over 1 million ’03-’08?The horror of Rwanda was referred to as genocide;how many makes up genocide?1 million,2 million+4 million displaced people?How many Ken?Last week the ABC etc announced the 4000 mark of US personnel dead in Iraq-no mention of Iraqis?If the REAL number aren’t spoken,does that mean the “degree of abuse” is not high? How convenient for us-pity about Iraqis!So our print media also complies with US stipulation;does that make it OK;if they don’t print the “degree of abuse” then it’s not really happening is it?Shhh!
    The same as not seeing homeless people,or aboriginal “4th world conditions” during the Sydney Games,it wasn’t really happening either was it?Even Goebells would be impressed with that propaganda!A bit like Howard’s accusation of a “black armband view of history”!what hypocritical bull shit!Makes the obscenity worse,hey Marilyn

  15. And the point is Naomi – do what?

    Sit in silence and say nothing about anything unless you are pure and perfect. or rant and rail and achieve sweet fu*k all.

    You didnt even understand the first sentence.

  16. It occurred to me today that having the Olympics in China has ironically provided a greater spotlight on China’s human rights record than would otherwise have been the case.

  17. Ken,and your point is?Do you think we should remain silent or rant & rave even if it’s like p*****g in the wind?I’m not sure whether your intent is to nullify my comment/s or take a stand,or acquiese to the ‘official voice’.Please explain?

    I wonder what your attitude would be if I was ‘Jack Cartledge’ instead of being obviously female. You obviously think that what you have to say is superior,correct,apt,intelligent etc & I need to be put in my place & kept there!It’s getting boring.

    No,Ken#13,How would I be able to understand “the first sentence” when it’s obviously beyond my powers of comprehension.Sadly,I’ve come across male supremacy before, and was just as scathing in my responses then as now!
    The fact is,that nothing would change if people didn’t speak up & act.Frequently,we’re treated with first,ridicule,then anger,then often (armed) resistance, and then, WE WIN!

    How many times have you contributed to,and/or participated in deputations on anything you considered important? How many times did you give 24 hr support to people in need?How many times did you stand up for something,regardless of being demeaned and insulted,just because you knew you were right,& were upholding a principle on behalf of “the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard”!

    I find it ironic,that Bob Brown & Kerry Nettle, were denied access to the address by the leader of China in the Federal Parlt as a punishemt for exercising their freedom of expression by objecting to the war in Iraq the preceding day in the presence of George W Bush!That for the first time in history,armed security from another country(US)were allowed to bare arms in the Federal Parliament. Me thinks this smacks of a big dose of hypocrisy!

  18. Naomi:

    I think the points Ken is trying to make are as follows:

    If we shut up and do nothing, nothing changes.

    If we have “a cow” about everything – we give ourselves heart attacks, alienate everyone, and still nothing changes.

    Therefore we tread a middle path.

    I think most people contributing here have a fair degree of intestinal fortitude. It isn’t fair to others to assume yourself to be an island on your own.

    Muzz is right about the positive aspects of the spotlight being on China’s human rights record.

    But yesterday I saw a female representative from Tibet saying what a wonderful democracy they live in. (Perhaps a gunman was standing out of range of the camera??)

  19. Thats about it Lorikeet.

    Naomi – Its your relentless and angry tirades, and lack of apparent capacity to have anything other than an absolutist position with no acknowledgement of any possible differeing interpreationa that irks me – its nothing to do with geneder – it is a shame that you see the gender prism as relevant at all and not a refelction on me.

  20. ken-the last time I looked,anger was an emotion that is not illegal & being angry is easy when there’s so much hypocrisy going on.Maybe my “tirades” are because I’ve heard more of the double speak than you-it is out of frustration usually!
    People can change things when they get angry or just speak out or march or whatever.The Vietnam War was such a case in point.The recent question re the ‘carers supplement’ or the ‘utilities payment’ was another example of people power.Lots of angry people as I recall!The Howard govt had to change the laws in regard to locking up kids in detention centres; forced into action over the continued jailing of David Hicks.WorstChoices is another!The list goes on.

    The Referendum of 1967 took place after 10 yrs of angry protest,deliberation,petitions,marches,sit-ins meetings,often very angry and frequently involved people being arrested.Charlie Perkins bus tours an example of this-police brutality & angry demonstrators.Sth African Apartheid demonstrations another example of angry demonstrators,letters,deputations that worked after time. There’s the “NO War” written on the Opera House-people turning their backs on Howard’s racist diatribe after the Bringing Them Home Report was brought down.Many of these involved angry retorts,written submissions via newspapers etc,coupled with deputations to relevant Ministers,Senators etc.I’ve participated in a couple myself over the yrs,not all are successful!but you keep on!

    Quite frankly,it doesn’t bother me what you think of me ken.Being angry “relentless” or otherwise is legal & as far as I’m concerned warranted.Perhaps it comes with age!No longer going to cop BS!Would it ever occur to you,that the anger denotes how passionately I’m for human rights & values,and speak accordingly.Lorikeet,if you choose the ‘middle path’ that’s your choice;I call it ‘fence-setting’which to me only results in getting splinters?

  21. Naomi:

    The middle path I am talking about is not the one where you sit on the fence.

    It’s where you try to look at an issue from as many perspectives as possible and then – depending on what the issue is – go straight to the horse’s mouth and try to do something about it.

    I have no interest in painting my face black, marching down streets, blocking traffic or getting into angry altercations with the police.

    It would be better if you simply phoned someone who knows what the aboriginal people need, and then see if you can help fix it.

    For example, you could give a small donation to help feed starving aboriginal children, or go into one of the communities and teach some kind of skill.

    When I didn’t like high school students creating havoc on the bus, I backed the bus driver, then phoned the police and 2 schools.

    The police ironed the kids out at the terminus and in the schools. Now their behaviour is quite respectful of bus drivers and adults.

    I don’t like what is happening in aged care, so I have written to the Minister for Ageing making suggestions, which might make some difference.

    In the meantime, when staff shortages occur and things go wrong (which is nearly all the time), I pitch in to help in ways that I can.

    In the past, I’ve taken on bureaucrats and won, but I didn’t do it by yelling and screaming. The pen is mightier than either the sword or the tongue-lashing.

    Some people enjoy the anger of others. They like to know they are causing us grief. So why give them the satisfaction?

    Splinters in the backside? Not last time I looked!

  22. Thats a very good summation Lorikeet – I’d only add a few additional thoughts:

    – the analysis of problems and making decisions based on factual data determined through high quality abd credible research:
    – the capacity to understand that other perspectives than one’s own exist on issues; and
    – the capacity to recognise, acknowledge one’s own self failings, particualry a bit of self deprecation.

    Not much of which are in evidnce in some of the cut and paste jobs we see here.

  23. Good, Ken.

    I just have a bit of a problem with “factual data determined through high quality and credible research”.

    I’ve worked with researchers.

  24. Whether she goes to the games or not is really of little significance. I don’t understand why some people make a big fuss over it. This boycotting thing sounds more and more like a joke.

  25. If people are expecting you there, and you don’t turn up (and everyone knows about it), it’s not a joke.

    China have invested a lot (not just money) into these Olympics and are trying to prove to the world that they are desreving of recognition. If people don’t show up to their party, they will be embarrassed, no matter what they say.

    And if you tell people why you’re not turning up, people may then wonder.

  26. I agree with this from Reporters without Borders: “the Olympics should proceed, with just a tiny change to agenda. It wants all foreign dignitaries and prominent people – presidents, prime ministers, cabinet members, movie stars, etc – to stay away from the Beijing Olympics.

    This is a plan the world can support. Voters and activist groups can lobby their politicians to stay home and watch the Games on television. In no way would this mix sports and politics. On the contrary, it would put heavy emphasis on sports, and for once keep politics out of the Olympics perhaps more than at any Games in history.

    Given that China may hold the world record in boycotting the Olympics, starting, I belive with ours in 1956, but I may be wrong there, I think it’s fair enough for politicians to boycott them, and let the athletes go if they wish.

    As for Mr Gosper, he has utterly no credibility on the fair way to run an Olympic games, or anything else.

  27. To:unman:
    What kind of sick human being are you? Do you have evidence to imply “your state propaganda video shows only Chinese dressed as Tibetians and killing innocent people. ”
    I am out of word and full of anger with your stupid comment. Just by that comment alone, you have no credibility. I guess all you CHina haters are like this, just slandering China. Sorry pal, it’s not gonna stick.

  28. I think it is easy for Dawn Fraser to say that she wouldn’t go to Beijing as an athlete (or in any other capacity).

    She’s already had her time in the Olympics’ spotlight, and has nothing to lose.

    No doubt her own medals are safely tucked away somewhere.

    Beijing Farmer:

    We see all kinds of things on TV and at the cinema which seem real. But what is happening in reality could be nearly anything.

    We are all innocent victims of the media and the powermongers who drive them.

  29. It’s quite ironic that the German Chancellor won’t turn up to the Games?Wasn’t it Hitler who started the Torch procession-it didn’t originate in Greece as I understand?Didn’t he also refuse to shake hands with Jesse Owens,the black athlete?Didn’t we continue to sell wool to Russia before,during & after the Olympic Games?And aren’t the multinationals still going for their millions via advertising during the Games?Why did China get the nod anyway?Apart from the question of human rights,it’s horrific pollution is a minus for athletes.Fancy running in a marathon around Beijing;it’ll be a terrible ordeal,with risk of serious breathing problems.Their assurances of cleaning the air isn’t working to date.

    Were politics behind the reason that the Olympic Committee awarded Beijing the games?Who applied the pressure?Couldn’t it have been forseen,that there’d be protests and demonstrations?Did Australian secret police dressed in green & gold track suits accompany the torch in 2000 and ‘punch up’ protestors?(Sebastion Coe called them”thugs”in London)Will our commercial TV stations covering the Games be asked to desist?No!Of course not!I think that apart from the human rights issues,this present fiasco could have either been forseen or prevented altogether!
    The attitude of ‘we must’nt allow human rights abuses to get in the way of capitalism’ is still alive & well,I see?There’s been 8 yrs notice of these Games!China should have been told to SHOW that their human rights for their citizens had improved PRIOR to being awarded these Games.Who’s next London?I hope they return Diego Garcia back to the people who were forcibly(guns & death threats-their pet dogs were shot the day before-they were promised the same if they resisted)removed in order to turn it over for the US to use for sea & air war machines. The whole thing has been reduced to farce!It’s very sad!I just hope everyone stays safe-regardless of who they are or what country they’re from!

  30. “their pet dogs were shot the day before” I made a mistake – they were gassed!1,000 of them!Children screamed & people were threatened & led to believe,they’d face the same fate if they resisted. It was and still is a very dirty piece of British history, that I’m sure they’d prefer that nobody knew or at least didn’t mention!
    (This happened in 1966)
    Put ‘John Pilger-Stealing Diago Garcia’ into Google!

  31. Dear Beijing Farmer, you’re obviously not a regular reader of this blog. Just because we criticise the actions of a particular government doesn’t mean we hate the country.

    After all, most of us are Australians and often criticise the actions of our own government while still loving the country we live in.

    For the record, I think China (like many other countries) has an distinguished history of invention and culture, but (also like many other countries) has been marred by the treatment of its own citizens – and that of other nations.

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