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  • Op Ed: Torch Relay Viewpoints


    After a week of controversy over Chinese politics and the Olympic Torch Relay, this week's Op Ed samples opinions from columnists around the world.

    Xiong Lei of China Daily says the perspective of China and its people must be considered when critics rail against the Olympics in Beijing:

    Some people have caused and will continue to cause trouble as witnessed at the torch launching ceremony, and the current torch relay, to steal the show and annoy people determined to hold a successful Games. These people are behaving like "hijackers."

    I wonder if those who are backing such protests have thought about the rights of the majority of Chinese people, comprising 56 ethnic groups. Humiliated by the aggressions of foreign powers since the late 1830s, the Chinese people did not win national liberation until 1949, and today, a country capable of hosting the Olympic Games.

    Now that China has been entrusted by the IOC to host the Olympic Games, there has been an eruption of annoying scenes and threats of a boycott over various allegations.

    It is pointless to explain to these agitators that Tibet has been part of China long before the United States came into being. It is pointless to tell them China has no troops other than peace-keeping units under the United Nations in a foreign land. It is pointless to let them see that China's overseas investment is but a tiny fraction of the Western powers.

    Charles Burress tried to explain protestor's rationale in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    The Olympic Games are no stranger to political protest, but the international demonstrations against the Olympic torch relay this year are unprecedented...

    The targeting of the torch reflects a critical mass of anger over China's human-rights record fed by the recent Chinese suppression of protests in Tibet, combined with the accelerated mobilizing power of the Internet and cell phones and the clash of symbols and ideals.

    Indignant protesters cannot abide the fact that the Olympics - born in ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy - have been awarded to a nation they see as violating the basic freedoms that define democratic societies. Their ire is heightened by what they see as China's exploitation of the Olympics as a public relations ploy to enhance its image abroad.

    Christine Brennan of USA Today wrote about the absurdity of the cat-and-mouse game played with the relay in San Francisco:

    What once seemed so simple and pure--the passing of the Olympic flame from one runner to the next--has descended into political chaos and international controversy, with the safety of the runners now actually in doubt. Wednesday, the torch relay took another bizarre turn, quite literally, when the event began and the flame promptly disappeared, its whereabouts unknown for many minutes.

    Reports were it was on a boat. Jet Skis, perhaps? Or maybe a bus. Who knew? It was as if this vaunted Olympic exercise had been reduced to a bizarre game of Where's Waldo?

    Simon Jenkins in The Times reflects on the commercial side of the torch relay:

    This tour has nothing to do with sport. It has been staged by the Chinese government, not the International Olympic Committee, with "celebrity runners" in each country approved by the commercial sponsors, Coca-Cola, Lenovo and Samsung. In Britain those conned into joining include Tim Henman, Sir Trevor McDonald, Vanessa-Mae, the Sugababes, Ken Livingstone and Gordon Brown. It shows how craven Britain has become to its membership of the so-called Olympic family and its Chinese parents.

    Nothing has equalled the present shenanigans. China's ruling politburo knows that these Games carry heavy political baggage. Everything is image. The regime wants value for money from its $30 billion and that would never accrue from a mere fortnight's track and field events.

    Compiled by Ed Hula III.

    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: