I'm in the UK at the moment and the press is flooded with coverage of the massive protests that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in London and Paris. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
I was at the stadium in Athens when the flame was handed over to the Beijing Olympic committee. It was a glorious Greek spring day and as I walked to the stadium, I wondered if I should do something. Couldn't I write FREE TIBET on my face with eye pencil? Why didn't I think of finding a Free Tibet T-shirt to wear under my clothes? I entered the stadium and walked to the far end past the throngs of Chinese supporters.
And do you know what? There were dozens of Athens 2004 volunteers there, who had turned up in our old uniforms. It hadn't occurred to me at all that they would get back together for this event. And the atmosphere was fantastic. Chinese supporters took pictures with the Athens 2004 volunteers and memories of pin-hunting came back as spectators exchanged wrist bands.
When I saw this, the ordinary people of different countries taking pictures with each other, smiling and laughing, it reminded me of how great the atmosphere was in Athens four years ago. The Olympics may have been hijacked by commercialism and may be a grand show-off, but it's also a chance for people from all over the world to meet and learn about each other and educate each other.
I believe people should peacefully protest for Tibet, but I think it's a real shame that suddenly everyone cares about human rights. Where were they all this time?
There has never been an Olympic host country totally free of sin. Where were the protests about America's abuse of human rights, the death penalty etc. for the times the US got the Olympics? Where were the protests about how Greece treats its Roma gypsy population? Did we see anything of this scale for the Aborigines when Sydney got the games? Were these issues no less deserving? Or is it that only nice, clean, white Western countries deserve the respect that comes with the Olympics?
China is no doubt guilty of serious human rights abuses, but why should people embarrass and shame the ordinary citizens of a country, especially when they don't get any say in their government's policies (hmmm, sounds surprisingly like the UK). It smacks a bit of Western superiority complex to me. We get to ELECT our dictators every few years and now we all want to jump on the human rights bandwagon. I admit that I don't really know much about the Tibet issue but thought of protesting about it, because hey, everyone else is.
I'm not really sure... all I know is that in the stadium that Sunday the atmosphere was wonderful. The mingling of cultures and making new friends - surely that should be salvaged at a time when the Olympics is turning into one big doping-scandal, logo covered, sponsor heaven, one-up manship, hollow farce?
That's just my opinion. I think Britain has no right to say a word about human rights with its history and current track record.
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