Commentary Magazine


Topic: International Olympic Committee

New Olympics Chief an Israel Boycotter

The history of the Olympics movement has long been marred by a persistent strain of anti-Semitism and bias against Israel. But those who thought the unhappy memories of Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972 should not influence our opinion of this behemoth of global sport were just sucker-punched by the election of a new head of the International Olympic Committee. German lawyer Thomas Bach won the presidency of the IOC on a second-ballot vote in Buenos Aires yesterday and began his reign over the sports empire by pledging neutrality in the political disputes that are part and parcel of the Olympics landscape. That notion was undermined by the fact that the first congratulatory phone call Bach received was from Russian President Vladimir Putin who is counting on the IOC head to protect the 2014 Sochi Winter Games from being derailed by protests over Russia’s anti-gay laws. But the pious talk about respecting the Olympic Charter and inclusion is also given the lie by a key fact about Bach’s biography.

Though Bach is being touted as a savvy veteran of Olympic legal tangles including leading anti-doping efforts as well as being a former Gold Medal fencer, the German lawyer’s day job is as chairman of Ghorfa, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. That sounds innocuous enough. But rather than just a straight-forward promoter of trade between Germany and the Arab world, as the Times of Israel reports, according to the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institute, Ghorfa was actually set up in the 1970s in order to facilitate the boycott of Israel:

Ghorfa helps German companies ensure that products meet the import requirements of Arab governments, some of which ban products and services from Israel.

The group continues to issue certificates of German origin for trade with Arab countries. Its earlier practice of certificates verifying that no product parts were produced in Israel stopped in the early 1990s when Germany enacted trade regulations forbidding the use of certificates of origin to enable de facto trade boycotts.

Such a record is hardly unusual in the Olympics hierarchy. Bach, who was a strong supporter of his predecessor’s refusal to hold even a moment of silence to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics at last year’s London Games had strong support from the Arab world in the IOC election.

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The history of the Olympics movement has long been marred by a persistent strain of anti-Semitism and bias against Israel. But those who thought the unhappy memories of Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972 should not influence our opinion of this behemoth of global sport were just sucker-punched by the election of a new head of the International Olympic Committee. German lawyer Thomas Bach won the presidency of the IOC on a second-ballot vote in Buenos Aires yesterday and began his reign over the sports empire by pledging neutrality in the political disputes that are part and parcel of the Olympics landscape. That notion was undermined by the fact that the first congratulatory phone call Bach received was from Russian President Vladimir Putin who is counting on the IOC head to protect the 2014 Sochi Winter Games from being derailed by protests over Russia’s anti-gay laws. But the pious talk about respecting the Olympic Charter and inclusion is also given the lie by a key fact about Bach’s biography.

Though Bach is being touted as a savvy veteran of Olympic legal tangles including leading anti-doping efforts as well as being a former Gold Medal fencer, the German lawyer’s day job is as chairman of Ghorfa, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. That sounds innocuous enough. But rather than just a straight-forward promoter of trade between Germany and the Arab world, as the Times of Israel reports, according to the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institute, Ghorfa was actually set up in the 1970s in order to facilitate the boycott of Israel:

Ghorfa helps German companies ensure that products meet the import requirements of Arab governments, some of which ban products and services from Israel.

The group continues to issue certificates of German origin for trade with Arab countries. Its earlier practice of certificates verifying that no product parts were produced in Israel stopped in the early 1990s when Germany enacted trade regulations forbidding the use of certificates of origin to enable de facto trade boycotts.

Such a record is hardly unusual in the Olympics hierarchy. Bach, who was a strong supporter of his predecessor’s refusal to hold even a moment of silence to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics at last year’s London Games had strong support from the Arab world in the IOC election.

The Olympics has consistently refused to commemorate the Munich massacre largely because of the resistance to any mention of the crime on the part of the movement’s Arab and Muslim countries. But Bach’s role in both boycotting Israel and supporting the IOC’s stonewalling of protests about its failure to have even a moment of silence puts him in the grand tradition of his predecessor Avery Brundage, the head of the movement from 1952-1972.

Brundage, the only American ever to head the IOC, helped prevent a boycott of the 1936 Berlin games and has long been suspected of being behind the U.S. team’s decision to keep the two Jewish athletes on the track team—future broadcaster Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller—from competing. Widely accused of anti-Semitism, he closed his career in sports by responding to terrorism in Munich by stating that the “games must go on.”

Since 1972, the Olympics have kept to that motto, ignoring the crime against Israel even while devoting time at its opening ceremonies to other acts of terrorism, such as last year’s commemoration of the attack on London on July 7, 2005.

In that context, Bach’s role in facilitating the efforts of German companies to boycott the State of Israel makes perfect sense. Far from such credentials serving, as they might were the Olympics a movement that was actually dedicated to the principles of equality and justice as it claims to be, to disqualify the German, his discriminatory practices were seen by many IOC committee members as a virtue.

In the past, the Olympics was a noxious mix of extreme nationalism and fake amateurism. But now that it has shed its façade of opposition to professionalism, it is merely a big business that profits from enormous television contracts. Even though most people only care about these events two weeks out of every four years, the Olympics are more popular than ever and any effort to oppose using it to paint despotic regimes in an attractive light are bound to fail since few viewers or advertisers want details about human rights to interfere with their fun or their profits. That was why any effort to shine a light on Putin’s tyranny will be largely ignored just as similar concerns about China collapsed in 2008.

Bach’s election is just one more reason for people of good will, including those, such as myself, who love sports, to ignore the Olympics. Like the United Nations, whose prejudicial practices it mirrors, the reality of the Olympics has little to do with the high ideals it purports to uphold.

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A Fitting Answer to the IOC’s Snub

In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

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In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

Though events have been held to honor the victims in London and elsewhere, the IOC and its leader Jacques Rogge have made sure that none were held at the Games themselves. The reason, as we have written before, isn’t hard to figure out. Many of the participating countries at the Olympics approve of Palestinian terrorism and don’t recognize Israel’s existence. Before the opening ceremony, some of us speculated as to whether the organization would snub others as they’ve done to the Israelis, but after the tribute to the London bombing victims, we got our answer.

The IOC response to appeals for a moment of silence was yet another indication that what the State Department has called a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” has infected the global sports world as well as other sectors of international opinion. But Raisman’s win and her willingness to stand up for the victims is a reminder to the anti-Semites that the spirit of the Jewish people cannot be extinguished by their hate.

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The IOC Didn’t Do Israel a Favor

On Wednesday, two of the widows of the Israeli Olympians who were murdered in Munich in 1972 made a last-ditch effort to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to change its mind and allow a moment of silence in their memory at the London Games opening ceremony to be held tonight. But despite the tearful pleas of Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, IOC head Jacques Rogge refused to be moved.

As Britain’s JC reports, Spitzer said this of the meeting with Rogge:

“I asked him ‘is it because they were Israelis?’ and he didn’t answer.

“We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it.

“I was looking him in the eye but he said we had two different opinions. We said ‘you didn’t hear the voice of the world.’ He said: ‘Yes I did.’”

Were he an honest man, Rogge would have admitted that the Israeli identity of the victims was the reason for his refusal. Indeed, when he says he heard the “voice of the world,” it may be he is referring to the fact that he believes — and not without reason — the world doesn’t care about spilled Jewish blood. Someone who agrees with that conclusion is Amir Mizroch, the English editor of Israel Hayom who writes (h/t Uriel Heilman at JTA) that perhaps “the IOC is doing us a favor by rejecting” requests for a moment to remember the Munich victims, because he is sure that instead of respectful silence what would follow such a request would be “a minute of deafening cacophony of hate for Israel.”

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On Wednesday, two of the widows of the Israeli Olympians who were murdered in Munich in 1972 made a last-ditch effort to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to change its mind and allow a moment of silence in their memory at the London Games opening ceremony to be held tonight. But despite the tearful pleas of Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, IOC head Jacques Rogge refused to be moved.

As Britain’s JC reports, Spitzer said this of the meeting with Rogge:

“I asked him ‘is it because they were Israelis?’ and he didn’t answer.

“We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it.

“I was looking him in the eye but he said we had two different opinions. We said ‘you didn’t hear the voice of the world.’ He said: ‘Yes I did.’”

Were he an honest man, Rogge would have admitted that the Israeli identity of the victims was the reason for his refusal. Indeed, when he says he heard the “voice of the world,” it may be he is referring to the fact that he believes — and not without reason — the world doesn’t care about spilled Jewish blood. Someone who agrees with that conclusion is Amir Mizroch, the English editor of Israel Hayom who writes (h/t Uriel Heilman at JTA) that perhaps “the IOC is doing us a favor by rejecting” requests for a moment to remember the Munich victims, because he is sure that instead of respectful silence what would follow such a request would be “a minute of deafening cacophony of hate for Israel.”

Mizroch may have a point. It is by no means unlikely that the crowd in London, not to mention even the athletes from Europe, the Third World and Muslim countries, would respond to a request for silence with jeers for the victims of Munich. Perhaps some would even take up chants in support for the terrorists who committed that atrocity.

Mizroch believes the moment of silence would be a replica of what happens at the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. He thinks a repeat of this treatment on the far more visible stage of the Olympics would discourage the people of Israel, because they would see for themselves, “just how few friends we actually have in the world.”

But Spitzer and the others who have spearheaded the drive to pressure the world to commemorate the Munich massacre on the 40th anniversary of the crime were not wrong. It may well be that Jew-hatred would bubble over on one of the world’s biggest stages had Rogge done the decent thing and asked for silence. But the proper response to this hatred on the part of self-respecting Jews as well as non-Jews is not to slink away and meekly accept this treatment.

The reason why the IOC and many of its member nations resisted the call to commemorate the Munich victims is because they know that doing so brings into disrepute the effort to stigmatize and drive Israel out of the family of nations. Were there to be a moment of silence that was disrupted by boos, Israelis certainly would feel, as Mizroch put it, disgusted by their rejection. But the losers would be the Israel-haters. Like the UN’s “Zionism is Racism” resolution and the long list of other anti-Semitic acts perpetrated throughout the last century, the ultimate result would be to discredit the cause of those who think slaughtering Jewish athletes is a form of heroism.

What the Israel-haters want is to make the Jews go away quietly and accept their ostracism. Doing so allows Israelis to avoid unpleasant confrontations, but it is no solution. As with the memory of every other act of hatred against the Jewish people, the proper response is to fight back and never let the perpetrators or their cheerleaders think they will ever live down the infamy they have earned.

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The Olympics and the Peace Process

The controversy about the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Munich massacre has taught us a lot about what is wrong with both the Olympic movement and the way the international community thinks about Israel. It bears repeating that were the athletes of any other country to be murdered the way the 11 Israelis were slain at Munich in 1972, remembrance would have become a permanent feature of opening ceremonies of the games. But doing so for these victims is deemed a political intrusion into the joy of the sports extravaganza. But lest anyone forget why this is so, the Palestinian Authority gave us a sharp reminder not only of the motivation of the Black September terrorists who committed this crime but of why the peace process is dead in the water.

As Palestine Media Watch reports, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote the following in a letter sent to IOC Chair Jacques Rogge commending his refusal of a moment of silence that was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida yesterday:

Sports are meant for peace, not for racism … Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them.

The article in the PA newspaper referred to the massacre as “the Munich Operation, which took place during the Munich Olympics in 1972.” The point is, the PA thinks of this atrocity as a heroic deed and part of the historical legacy of the Palestinian national movement, not an act of terrorism. Jibril praises Rogge because honoring the victims of Munich is, in the view of the Palestinians, an indictment of them. Worry about offending the Palestinians by drawing attention to their past is the real reason for the IOC’s refusal. But the implications of this issue go much farther than the Olympics. The devotion of the Palestinians to the memory of the Munich terrorists is a symptom of the way their political culture clings not just to violence but also to opposition to the legitimacy of Israel.

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The controversy about the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Munich massacre has taught us a lot about what is wrong with both the Olympic movement and the way the international community thinks about Israel. It bears repeating that were the athletes of any other country to be murdered the way the 11 Israelis were slain at Munich in 1972, remembrance would have become a permanent feature of opening ceremonies of the games. But doing so for these victims is deemed a political intrusion into the joy of the sports extravaganza. But lest anyone forget why this is so, the Palestinian Authority gave us a sharp reminder not only of the motivation of the Black September terrorists who committed this crime but of why the peace process is dead in the water.

As Palestine Media Watch reports, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote the following in a letter sent to IOC Chair Jacques Rogge commending his refusal of a moment of silence that was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida yesterday:

Sports are meant for peace, not for racism … Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them.

The article in the PA newspaper referred to the massacre as “the Munich Operation, which took place during the Munich Olympics in 1972.” The point is, the PA thinks of this atrocity as a heroic deed and part of the historical legacy of the Palestinian national movement, not an act of terrorism. Jibril praises Rogge because honoring the victims of Munich is, in the view of the Palestinians, an indictment of them. Worry about offending the Palestinians by drawing attention to their past is the real reason for the IOC’s refusal. But the implications of this issue go much farther than the Olympics. The devotion of the Palestinians to the memory of the Munich terrorists is a symptom of the way their political culture clings not just to violence but also to opposition to the legitimacy of Israel.

The reference to “racism” in Rajoub’s letter isn’t just a recycling of liberal pap meant to resonate with the politically correct world of the IOC. It was a carefully chosen word that harkened to the Palestinian belief that the existence of Israel was an act of “racism.” They believe the Munich attack was not only heroic but justified because Israel, its athletes and its people have no place in the Middle East. As Palestine Media Watch documents, the PA media and its officials have often praised the Munich terrorists who, after all, carried out their crime at the behest of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat (the “Black September” organization that was said to have organized the attack was merely a cover for Arafat’s Fatah).

The reaction to the demand for a moment of silence has taught us a lot. It gave friends of Israel, even those whose affection for the Jewish state is somewhat lukewarm like President Obama, an opportunity to do the right thing and join the call to remember the victims of Munich. Others, such as NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has said he will impose his own moment of silence when the Israeli team enters the stadium for the opening gala, have proved their seriousness and devotion to principle.

But for Palestinians, the issue was another chance to show us that their political culture has yet to reach the point of maturity where they can jettison their terrorist past. Having come into existence in the 20th century as an expression of a desire to reject the Jews more than to promote a specifically Palestinian Arab identity, their national movement is still mired in the swamp of terror. Their attitude toward Munich shows they have yet to grow up. It’s not likely they will until the world forces them to do so rather than, as Rogge has done, indulge their destructive embrace of terror.

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IOC: Been There, Done That, on Munich

Days after the news broke that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused Israel’s request for a moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, the IOC finally issued a rationale for its decision. But the group’s perfunctory and lame excuse for why not one moment could be spared to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were slain by Palestinian terrorists won’t convince anyone. As CNN reports, the group’s attitude can be summed up as a mere case of been there, done that.

“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget,” Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.

IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team’s traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” he said.

In fact, the only substantive commemoration of the 11 Israelis came immediately after their murder which was then followed by a blunt statement by the then head of the IOC Avery Brundage — a well known anti-Semite — to the effect that the Games were too important to be further postponed by the tragedy. Since then, though Olympic officials have paid lip service to Israeli efforts to remember the 11, there has been a consistent effort to downplay or ignore them. If, as the spokesman claimed, the IOC “will continue” to pay tribute to their memory, why is one moment of silence during a ceremony that goes on for hours too much to ask?

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Days after the news broke that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused Israel’s request for a moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, the IOC finally issued a rationale for its decision. But the group’s perfunctory and lame excuse for why not one moment could be spared to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were slain by Palestinian terrorists won’t convince anyone. As CNN reports, the group’s attitude can be summed up as a mere case of been there, done that.

“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget,” Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.

IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team’s traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” he said.

In fact, the only substantive commemoration of the 11 Israelis came immediately after their murder which was then followed by a blunt statement by the then head of the IOC Avery Brundage — a well known anti-Semite — to the effect that the Games were too important to be further postponed by the tragedy. Since then, though Olympic officials have paid lip service to Israeli efforts to remember the 11, there has been a consistent effort to downplay or ignore them. If, as the spokesman claimed, the IOC “will continue” to pay tribute to their memory, why is one moment of silence during a ceremony that goes on for hours too much to ask?

An online petition has been started asking the IOC for “Just One Minute” of silence for the Israelis. It comes with a video from Ankie Spitzer, widow of Andrei Spitzer, who was one of the 11, and who speaks on behalf of all the families of the victims. As she states so eloquently, she has been asking the IOC for 40 years for such a commemoration but has been turned down every time.

As Ms. Spitzer states:

These men were sons; fathers; uncles; brothers; friends; teammates; athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations.

The families of the Munich 11 have worked for four decades to obtain recognition of the Munich massacre from the International Olympic Committee. We have requested a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics starting with the ’76 Montreal Games. Repeatedly, these requests have been turned down. The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games. …

Silence is a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no statements, assumptions or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret.

I have no political or religious agenda. Just the hope that my husband and the other men who went to the Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship are given what they deserve. One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again. Please do not let history repeat itself.

For my husband Andrei and the others killed, we must remember the doctrine of the Olympic Spirit, “to build a peaceful and better world which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,” is more powerful than politics.

As I wrote previously, the reason for the IOC’s refusal isn’t any great mystery. The vast majority of member nations in the Olympic movement want nothing at the Games to remind the world of a crime committed by terrorists seeking the destruction of the State of Israel. In this sense, the IOC is a mirror image of the United Nations, a world body where anti-Semitism is the norm rather than the exception.

This week, the Olympic torch will start to be carried around Britain as a prelude to the Games as part of a tradition initiated by the Nazis to promote the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That makes it an apt moment for those persons of good will to make it clear to the IOC that ignoring the 40th anniversary of the massacre is indefensible. Both President Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, who chaired the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, must add their voices to that of Ankie Spitzer in calling for just one minute to remember.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real – it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real – it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

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The Right to Be Like Obama

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

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Taking the Gold for Hypocrisy

It’s a shame to further bust the “global community” myth of the Olympic Games–but bust I must. Ali Al-Ahmed has a piece in the Herald Tribune on how the International Olympic Committee is violating its charter by allowing Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to send to teams to the Games.

How so? The charter states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

But countries like the two named above, which limit or ban the participation of women on their teams, are slated to compete in Beijing. It’s worth noting that it’s not merely sports participation from which these women are banned. When the Saudi team comes to China, you can be sure that the Kingdom’s frustrated female athletes will be among the least traumatized women in Saudi society. On the basis of gender, other Saudi women will be prohibited from obtaining basic medical treatment.

You can practically hear the cognitive dissonance of the multi-culti crowd. If accepting others is good and rejecting others is bad, what’s accepting those who reject others?

Why, it’s the way of most international bodies, of course. It’s hard to imagine an enterprise that can’t be degraded by sticking the word international before it. Once you are international, you are subject to all the whims of the international community. According to Al Ahmed, various NGO’s have been pressuring the International Olympic Committee about women’s rights for years, and there has been slow progress. But, as he writes,

[i]f the IOC is pressed to live up to its own standards, the London Games in 2012 should witness the celebration of female Olympians from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and other Muslim countries.

It’s a shame to further bust the “global community” myth of the Olympic Games–but bust I must. Ali Al-Ahmed has a piece in the Herald Tribune on how the International Olympic Committee is violating its charter by allowing Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to send to teams to the Games.

How so? The charter states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

But countries like the two named above, which limit or ban the participation of women on their teams, are slated to compete in Beijing. It’s worth noting that it’s not merely sports participation from which these women are banned. When the Saudi team comes to China, you can be sure that the Kingdom’s frustrated female athletes will be among the least traumatized women in Saudi society. On the basis of gender, other Saudi women will be prohibited from obtaining basic medical treatment.

You can practically hear the cognitive dissonance of the multi-culti crowd. If accepting others is good and rejecting others is bad, what’s accepting those who reject others?

Why, it’s the way of most international bodies, of course. It’s hard to imagine an enterprise that can’t be degraded by sticking the word international before it. Once you are international, you are subject to all the whims of the international community. According to Al Ahmed, various NGO’s have been pressuring the International Olympic Committee about women’s rights for years, and there has been slow progress. But, as he writes,

[i]f the IOC is pressed to live up to its own standards, the London Games in 2012 should witness the celebration of female Olympians from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and other Muslim countries.

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Send the Torch Back to China

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

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Not Good Sports

The State Department has released its annual report on human rights around the world. It’s not going to offer any comfort to those who, like the International Olympic Committee or President Bush, believe that the Games are forcing the Chinese to take human rights more seriously, or that the Olympics are just about sports.

Given the rise of lawless government in Russia and Pakistan, the fact that China was dropped from list of the ten worst abusers is nothing to be proud of: this is classic grading on a curve. When you move to on the ground realities, the report notes that, far from China opening up as the Game draw nearer, “The government [has] tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, particularly in anticipation of and during sensitive events, including increased efforts to control and censor the Internet.” It also mentions the reports of large-scale forced relocations in Beijing to make way for Olympic projects.

None of this is going to make the slightest impression on the IOC, or on U.S. participation in the Games. And to anyone who has been awake for the past sixty years, the IOC could hardly be more discredited than it already is. As Arch Puddington pointed out in November, there is nothing new about the IOC truckling to dictators. What the IOC prizes most in a host country is not human rights: it’s order.

This is why the IOC has such an ambivalent relationship with the U.S., which on the one hand is the source of a lot of corporate money, but on the other is a disorderly place where institutions like State publish critical reports on China, and where the press exposes the IOC’s love of bribes, as it did before the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The kind of press the IOC likes is well-illustrated by the International Herald Tribune‘s story on the report, which editorializes furiously that Iraq and Afghanistan “account for a huge chunk of the U.S. defense budget, and a disproportionate amount of diplomatic attention and resources.” For both the IOC and the Tribune, the problem is not what’s going on: the problem is that people persist in talking and trying to do something about it.

The State Department has released its annual report on human rights around the world. It’s not going to offer any comfort to those who, like the International Olympic Committee or President Bush, believe that the Games are forcing the Chinese to take human rights more seriously, or that the Olympics are just about sports.

Given the rise of lawless government in Russia and Pakistan, the fact that China was dropped from list of the ten worst abusers is nothing to be proud of: this is classic grading on a curve. When you move to on the ground realities, the report notes that, far from China opening up as the Game draw nearer, “The government [has] tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, particularly in anticipation of and during sensitive events, including increased efforts to control and censor the Internet.” It also mentions the reports of large-scale forced relocations in Beijing to make way for Olympic projects.

None of this is going to make the slightest impression on the IOC, or on U.S. participation in the Games. And to anyone who has been awake for the past sixty years, the IOC could hardly be more discredited than it already is. As Arch Puddington pointed out in November, there is nothing new about the IOC truckling to dictators. What the IOC prizes most in a host country is not human rights: it’s order.

This is why the IOC has such an ambivalent relationship with the U.S., which on the one hand is the source of a lot of corporate money, but on the other is a disorderly place where institutions like State publish critical reports on China, and where the press exposes the IOC’s love of bribes, as it did before the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The kind of press the IOC likes is well-illustrated by the International Herald Tribune‘s story on the report, which editorializes furiously that Iraq and Afghanistan “account for a huge chunk of the U.S. defense budget, and a disproportionate amount of diplomatic attention and resources.” For both the IOC and the Tribune, the problem is not what’s going on: the problem is that people persist in talking and trying to do something about it.

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Yet Another Dialogue with China

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

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Dirty Olympics

Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

Read More

Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

China was not ready to host the Games in 2001, when they were awarded, and it is not ready now. The Beijing Olympics organizing committee is already trying to lower foreign expectations. “We can’t please everybody,” said spokesman Sun Weide. In response, the International Olympic Committee should live up to its principles and think about criticizing the Chinese government. President Rogge, however, has consistently maintained that Beijing’s detestable political system is none of his organization’s business. “Any expectations that the International Olympic Committee should apply pressure on the Chinese government beyond what is necessary for Games preparations are misplaced, especially concerning sovereign matters the IOC is not qualified to judge,” he recently said. Some activists argue the IOC should take away the Olympics from China. I say keep the Games in Beijing to maintain the spotlight on the Communist Party—and a complicit International Olympic Committee.

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The Sochi Effect

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi, a Russian resort near the Black Sea. “It was a historic decision for all countries,” said Dmitry Chernychenko, the city’s bid chief, after the announcement. “Russia will become even more open, more democratic.” He may be right. The IOC claims it’s only concerned about a city’s ability to stage the Games, but many awards appear to have been made to encourage a host country’s political liberalization. That’s largely why Moscow got the 1980 Summer Olympics and Seoul the 1988 ones. Many analysts, pointing to these two events, have maintained that hard-line governments do not last long after the athletes go home.

But don’t bet on such liberalization happening in Russia. The country’s leaders are already using the 2014 extravaganza as a means of advancing their legitimacy, both at home and abroad. Vladimir Putin, who flew to Guatemala City to address the IOC before the vote, crowed that Sochi’s victory had international significance. “This is, without doubt, not just a recognition of Russia’s sporting achievements,” Putin said, “but it is, beyond any doubt, a judgment on our country.” Boris Gryzlov, Speaker of the Duma, called the award “a confirmation that the world is not unipolar, that there are forces which support Russia, which is once again becoming a global leader.” Russian leaders, it seems, cannot help themselves from making the Sochi award into a pat on the head for their policies.

We all hope that Chernychenko is right when he says the Sochi Olympics “will help Russia’s transition as a young democracy.” If only all Russian officials felt that way!

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi, a Russian resort near the Black Sea. “It was a historic decision for all countries,” said Dmitry Chernychenko, the city’s bid chief, after the announcement. “Russia will become even more open, more democratic.” He may be right. The IOC claims it’s only concerned about a city’s ability to stage the Games, but many awards appear to have been made to encourage a host country’s political liberalization. That’s largely why Moscow got the 1980 Summer Olympics and Seoul the 1988 ones. Many analysts, pointing to these two events, have maintained that hard-line governments do not last long after the athletes go home.

But don’t bet on such liberalization happening in Russia. The country’s leaders are already using the 2014 extravaganza as a means of advancing their legitimacy, both at home and abroad. Vladimir Putin, who flew to Guatemala City to address the IOC before the vote, crowed that Sochi’s victory had international significance. “This is, without doubt, not just a recognition of Russia’s sporting achievements,” Putin said, “but it is, beyond any doubt, a judgment on our country.” Boris Gryzlov, Speaker of the Duma, called the award “a confirmation that the world is not unipolar, that there are forces which support Russia, which is once again becoming a global leader.” Russian leaders, it seems, cannot help themselves from making the Sochi award into a pat on the head for their policies.

We all hope that Chernychenko is right when he says the Sochi Olympics “will help Russia’s transition as a young democracy.” If only all Russian officials felt that way!

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