Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Swedish Olympic Team Gets Dragged into Tibet vs. China

Recent Swedish Olympic coverage from a Swedish American in Sweden.

Recent events in Tibet have brought up a lot of ill will towards the Chinese. Here in Sweden people have been demonstrating and in Stockholm protesting in front of the Chinese embassy. No one is too impressed with the Chinese record when it comes to human rights. And Tibet always seems to be a bit of a sore spot. The Chinese are accusing the Dalai Lama of being behind the problems so that they will sabotage the Olympics that are coming up in just a few months.

And the Olympics being in China are bringing up some strong opinions here in Sweden. In fact, some people are calling for the Swedish Olympic team to boycott the Olympics. I completely disagree. Sports and politics should not overlap. They sometimes do, but to use sports as a platform to promote a political idea is something I don't agree with. The beauty of sports is that they are simple. There is a winner and a loser. Nothing else matters in the end. But adding politics to the mix makes other things matter.

There are other, more productive ways of getting a political point across. Trade restrictions would be a good start. Diplomatic protests. Governmental protests. The Swedish way is to protest. But forcing a bunch of athletes who have trained for most of their life away with the goal of reaching the Olympics doesn't seem like the most effective way to do this. Plus it smacks of Cold War era attitudes.

And from a purely selfish, athletic stand point. It's just not fair to the athletes. Some of these men and women will never again have the chance to compete in the Olympic for their country. Because of something they can't control. While some of them are I'm sure quite politically active, others could probably care less. And that's ok. Just let them compete.

There is a good chance of course that everything will go on as planned. Sweden will take its Olympic team to Beijing and compete. But the protesters are getting louder. Should be interesting to see how it goes as the Olympics draw closer.

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  1. An Olympic boycott is surely not the answer.
    The USOC higher ups came out and said the a boycott is unfathomable. I am sure our overtly friendly attitude right now may have something to do with the Chinese agreeing to attend LA 84 after the rest of the communist bloc sat out in response to the U.S. boycott in Moscow 80. So it's my opinion that the USOC is sort of paying back a huge favor by not even speaking out on the issue!
    From what I've read the EU has also gone on record as saying a boycott is not an option....
    I did read that some are suggesting a partial boycott (opening ceremonies) but lets be serious that will not hold any weight.
    Having said all of this, the IOC should have NEVER awarded China the Olympics for 2008.
    Finally let me throw this out for a little fun debate.
    what's the over/under for the Swedish medal count in Beijing + or - 10???
    8 in 96
    12 in 2000
    7 in 2004

  2. I very much doubt the swedish athletes or decision makers would go through with a boycot. There we're some interviews with a few of the atheletes in a swedish newspaper today. Not surprisingly all of them said they we're going there to compete and were against a boycot.

    Most likely the voices who call for a boycot get an unproportional amount of space in media.

  3. I totally agree that the Olympics is not the forum for political demonstrations.
    However,,, I certainly understand the demonstrators to use this forum, since it is a global event and just like you mentioned Hairy, it is not fair for the contestants, but that is exactly the point they want to make on some of their issues. They are mistreated or not given a fair chance or whatever, get my point?

  4. Just to follow up on Travis' mention of the '80 boycott in Moscow, it should be mentioned that despite our (America) protests, Sweden went to the Olympics anyway, and was one only a few US allies to do so.

  5. I hope you realize what you're saying hairy. It's not Sweden who's "adding politics to the mix" here, and as I see a boycott of the Olympics would not be so much apolitical demonstration on our part (but sure it will partly will be , to mark that we don't agree with the way they rule things over there) but a way of making sure that the problems in China gets attention around the world. It's China that's using the Olympics as a both a political demonstration and a political instrument. Let me explain what I mean. China which currently is an undemocratic country uses the Olympics to get focus off problems in the country, like the lack of human rights, the (in many ways) absolute state control (like the censorship of practically all, if not all, medias) and the conflict in Tibet etc.

    Whenever a dictatorial regime is hosting such a big event as the Olympics politics will, whether you like it or not, always be a part of it. We've seen many times before how dictatorial regimes used big sport events, and great sports successes, to get people's mind off the serious issues such as the dictatorship, undemocratic laws, violation of human rights etc. and get them on their side. The military dictatorship of Brazil in the 70s used Brazil's football team's huge successes for exactly that purpose, as did Mussolinis regime in Italy some decades before. The Soviet regime used the Olympics for the very same purpose and now China wants in on the list.

    I find it funny that you criticize Swedes' suggestions, or demands, of a boycott because you think it "smacks of Cold War era attitudes" when USA lead the boycott but Sweden wasn't even part of it. Back then USA did not boycott the Olympics primarily (and maybe not even partly) because of the lack of human rights and so forth, they boycotted it because Soviet was their number one enemy and because they were constantly in "competition" with each other about who was the most powerful and mighty side.

    Now, USA has very good reasons for not wanting to boycott China - they're a major trading partner of USA, there are countless American businesses and corporations in China and they have a pretty good relationship with China. USA profits greatly from all of the mentioned things. Of course they don't want to risk that over a sports event.

    Those who raise a voice, in Sweden, for boycotting China this year don't want a boycott to be solely, and not even primarily, a PROTEST of the undemocratic, inhumane regime of China but a DIMINISHING of it. Showing up would be helping the regime to make people forget the serious issues and make the Chinese people's outlook on the government more positive. It would also be NOT helping the Chinese people. There was a lot of talk about how undemocratic the Soviet Union was from USA /and many of USA's allies) but now there's very very little talk of how undemocratic China is. Why is that, do you think?

    Lastly, I agree with you that it's not very fair to the athletes but it's less fair to the Chinese people to sit quiet and let the Chinese dictatorship rule fiercely over the Chinese people as they wish.

  6. I agree with Travis that China should never have been awarded the Olympics in the first place.

    Furthermore, I do agree with you, hairy swede, that there is much more to be done than a boycott. Like the things that you mentioned. But I would be positive to a boycott based on the ground I explained in my previous comment. Not that I think they will ever go through with it.

  7. I'm with you on this. Swedish athletes are pretty good, too, or at least extremely diligent. They deserve the chance to compete.

    My roommate is Chinese. I don't have an extreme hate towards the Chinese or anything, but living with a Chinese person is definitely pushing the barriers. I can't eat a meal with her... my god, talk about the worst table habits ever. But that's not that big of a deal. What I find interesting is how materialistic the Chinese are for being so communist. If she's on the phone, it's because she's ordering something from somewhere and there will be lots of mail in the coming days. I swear, I sign for packages almost every day from H&M or Target.com or something like that. Reeee donk you luss.

    I guess it makes sense, though. I'm pretty happy that Tibetans are protesting. I'd like to see what's really going on there, though. Bet we're only getting half the story.

  8. @travis - the fact that China got it in the first place is quite interesting. but they did. so a boycott isn't the answer like you mention.

    and the over under? 10 is good. But Im going with matching the 12 they had in 2000. Expectations are high. That being said... swedish sports often times sturggle when expectations are high. we'll see.

    @anonymous - a good point. and if an individual athlete wants to boycott then they should be able to. but a full on boycott shouldn't happen.

    @anonymous - I definitely understand, I just dont think sports is the way to do it.

    @ the Dr. - an interesting point. and one which I did not know actually.

    @robban - a boycott of the Olympics is most definitely political eve if the intention is to bring attention to the problems.

    And my point about smacking of cold war attitudes was directed at the fact that the Americans boycotted. and as I said I dont like boycotts. and I would like to think that those cold war era attitudes have passed.

    and the american relationship is not something I would refer to as a good relationship. there are problems with military actions, there are problems with trade, there are problems with environmental issues, there are problems with the valuation of the yen. there are problems. and there have been plenty of politicians and others who have spoken out against what is going on in china.

    I would also argue that having the Olympics has brought even more attention to the problems their because it is such a global event. the whole world is watching china now. globally, you can't help but see, hear, and start to understand what is going on there.

    @jen- all athletes should have that chance when they have trained as they have. leave the politics alone when it comes to sports.

  9. I've got to admit that you got some good points. The Olympics does bring some attention to what's happening there - for example, the conflicts in Tibet. Yet I stand by my earlier statement that the government of China uses the Olympics as a way to make the Chinese people forget what's really happening there. I think that a boycott, not just by Sweden but ideally by all democracies in the world, would bring even more attention to the problems. Plus it would send a message both to the Chinese government and hopefully to the Chinese people. As you said Olympics is a very big event and it generates loads of attention, then doesn't it make sense to use it to get through protests against violations of human rights and so forth?

    As for the comments I wrote about the China-USA-relationship, well good relationship may be a stretch but it's better than for a very long time. Additionally, as you said, there may be some problems with trade but don't fool yourself - China IS a major trade partner of USA and there are a lot of established American businesses there and many that are still establishing themselves. The American are pretty powerful and have a pretty big influence on the decisions of the American government, don't you think that that power and that influence does NOT want USA to boycott the Olympics?

    Yes, there might be some, or many (depending on definition), politicians in USA who have talked against China but there still was a lot more critique of the Soviet Union than there is of China today.

    I can't figure out what you mean about environmental issues (USA is hardly in the forefront in these issues) and problems with yen (the Japanese currency).

    Well, your new comment about the "cold war-era attitudes" I would like to answer with a question. Don't you think that trade restrictions, as you proposed, wreaks of even more cold war-era attitude?

    To conclude, I agree that there are other ways but hey, you can't change something in just ONE way, by just doing ONE thing. You need to use everything you can. Your suggestions might be good "second steps". Boycotting the Olympics is a good first step.

  10. THe Chinese might be trying to make their own people forget what is happenng, but it is the the ret of the world that is reacting.

    And China and the US do have alot of trade, and obviously trade is going to have an infuence, but at the same time I'm not sure that the American people have such a rosy view of the Chinese trade that they would be willing to overlook human rights atrocities. I just dn't think that the majority of americans believe that a boycott of the Olympics is the best way.

    My environmental comments were directed at things like the Kyoto protocol which the US has refused to sign due in part to the Chinese not having similar restrictions as the US. That sort of environmental thing...

    and the yen should have been the yuan. my mistake.

    and in regards to trade restrictions I think they are a very effective way of getting your point across while a boycott of the Olympics might be sensational nbut in reality is kind of abstrat and doesn't really accomplish anything concrete.

  11. @travis - who do you think is going to pull off a medal for Sweden? What about Johan Wissman in the 400? Maing some serious improvements but will he be able to make that final jump to the medal stand by the time the Olympics come around?

  12. I dont think my last comment worked so I'll try and post again.
    I dont think Johan Wissman has much of a chance. He picked the wrong time to peak in the 400m. I am calling an american sweep in the 400m just like in athens 04 and osaka 07....Jeremy Wariner leading the way of course.
    I am not familiar with Swedish summer Olympians outside of track and field but I see this as a down year for them. I am calling less then 10 medals.
    Kluft is not going to defend her Heptathlon which was a sure gold...shes going to try long jump but that is not sure thing for a medal.
    I like Holm's chances to medal in the high jump, Olsson if hes healthy in the triple, and MAYBE Susanna Kallur in the hurdles (she was born in new york by the way).
    Am I missing anyone else??

    The americans will have another big medal haul in track and swimming.
    our mens soccer team just qualified yesterday by beating canada...
    hopefully our basketball team will decide they want to be serious and win a gold this year.

  13. hairy - Yes, i actually agreed with you on trade restrictions and the other proposals you came with. But I think a boycott could be a good start. Not that it's going to happen, though...

    Travis - I'm afraid you're right. A down year... But I definitely think Holm will take the gold and Sanna Kallur will definitely get a medal if you ask me. She's been doing some amazing progress.

  14. I think sweden might be able to snag a medal or two inthe swimming branches both on the mens and womens side. maybe even snag a wrestling medal.

  15. Hello,

    May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

    Our site:

    URL: http://www.2008chinaolympics.com
    Title: Beijing Olympics

    Please let me know if you want a link back.
    Many thanks for your reply.

    Best Regards,


  16. thanks, Im gettign excited for the olympics to start.

    I'm always happy if someone puts up a link to my blog. so feel free.