Sunday, March 23, 2008


The other day, I said Canada should boycott the Beijing Olympics. As a point of clarification, I believe Canada should threaten a boycott, because that stance applys pressure, if there is no response, then you move beyond the threat. These Olympics provide a unique opportunity for the world to leverage China, if not now then when?

The idea of a possible boycott is gaining steam, working in concert with pressure applied to Olympic corporate sponsors.

The European Union President:
The president of the European Parliament said European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if violence continues in Tibet.

Poettering told Bild that ''we should not rule out a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing.''

''Only Beijing can decide this question,'' he said.

Leaving the option on the table, is the best way to force the Chinese to move on Tibet. Essentially, as the EU President says, the onus is on Beijing, how they react determines what happens. Canada should develop this posture, beyond the nice soundbites we have heard coming from Foreign Affairs.

It is debatable, whether the Olympics is a spectacle for sport, or an economic vehicle. Maybe more important than government pressure, the corporate community becoming uneasy with the appearance of supporting repression, by indirectly investing in these games. The pressure is starting to be applied:
Chinese officials' harsh response to protests in Tibet has brought a fresh wave of accusations that corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics are partners with a government that ignores basic human rights.

Amid a widening crackdown in the remote Himalayan province, human rights organizations have renewed demands that Coca-Cola, Visa, General Electric and other international companies explain their dealings with the Communist government as it prepares to host the Summer Games.

"The role of the sponsors in subsidizing this event, while monks are being shot, is not going to look very good," said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. Major companies have the ability to "get the ear" of the Chinese leadership, she said.

Nothing makes corporations more squeamish than bad publicity. If that bad publicity works in tandem with a threatening stance by governments, it provides the best chance to move China. After the Olympics, where exactly do you find the leverage?


Mike said...

I could really care less about the Olympics so a boycott would be just fine by me (and having been a teenager when the Moscow Olympics were boycotted, as well as Los Angeles 4 years later, it really doesn't mean that much).

If no boycott, I say every Western country, including Canada, march into the opening ceremonies under the flag of Tibet, not their own. Now that would be a big "fuck You" to the Chinese.

Or have the flag of Tibet riased for gold medals, instead of the national flag...that puts the ball back in China's court.

JimmE said...

Like you I could care less about the Olympic$ & I sincerely hate to shill for CBC radio (as it is so EFFN holier than thou) but this week on the Current a guest opened my eyes. The question raised was to boycott or not, Jessie Owens was compared to two Canadian Jewish boxers who stayed home rather than legitimize Hitler's Olympic$. We've all heard of Jessie Owens, who has heard of these two boxers? I would agree with Steve's suggestion & urge athletes to make gestures, raise flags, and make statements in support of Tibet.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, China is considering not televising the events. Not letting other countries see their athletes in competition?

Enough already - why did they give the Olympics to China anyway?

Tomm said...

Steve, interesting post. Good first two comments as well.

I, like Mike, don't think a boycott is meaningful in a positive way. The Moscow and LA boycotts just soured east-west relations without any substantive positive outputs.

Chinese people have no choice of government and really have no breadth of media access; so a boycott does not provide a venue for positive change within China. Unless of course the whole world boycotted, which turns China into a pariah state. I don't see that as being positive either.

We also have the politician's deciding on behalf of ahtletes that have given up much of their lives for a promise of competition. That type of political iron fist is unsavory.


Steve V said...

Apparently, the Chinese won't allow broadcasters like NBC to go on air live, because they are worried something could happen. That alone is concerning, the world has to censor itself, for fear of embarrassing a country that doesn't respect freedom of expression.

Maybe they are worried that at Tibet flag will show up, re what Mike said.

Möbius said...

Boycotts force the athletes to pay for us making belated political points. They've been training for years for this. Full disclosure, I know one of them personally.

Has China accepted human rights since they won the games? Did they win the games without doing so? Have you taken a Cuban vacation lately?

If you want to punish China, stop shopping at dollar stores.

Steve V said...

"If you want to punish China, stop shopping at dollar stores."

If only it were that simple.

Möbius said...

It really is that simple. Look at where the cheap-o products you're buying are made, and choose to buy something different.

The Soviets were brought down by economics, not the military, although the threat of the US military had something to do with it.

Steve V said...


I suggest you check out some retailers, not the dollar store, and start turning over products.