International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge spoke yesterday, and, as usual, he didn’t say anything. Which is just how the Chinese government likes it. The idea of awarding the Olympics to Beijing was that it would help change the behavior of the Chinese government. Instead, the Chinese government is changing the behavior of everyone else.
They should start a new Olympic event for Rogge in Beijing: the Apolitical Head Duck, which should take place at the conclusion of the Dissident Roundup. Every week, another Olympic suit from a supposedly free society issues an edict that the athletes who go to the Beijing Olympics must watch their tongues about the host country. Let’s think about that for a moment: Competitors should refrain from speaking their minds about the actions of the Chinese government, for fear of offending their hosts, who are known to flog with truncheons those who speak their minds.
But the Olympics are apolitical. Right?
Last week, Chinese officials had a public fit when Steven Spielberg dropped out as artistic director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies because he couldn’t stomach their dealings in Darfur. They ridiculed him as a naive Hollywood guy. Actually, what’s naive is to think that any sports event held in Beijing could possibly be apolitical. Spielberg quite smartly recognized something that the IOC, along with corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s and Visa, will have to reckon with before these Games are done: Silence is not neutral. It’s complicit.