It is six months before the start of the Beijing Games — China’s coming-out party — and though they knew that Olympic officials and the world’s media would be watching, the Chinese authorities railroaded Lu anyway. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am. China’s pledges to respect and, as one Beijing bid executive put it, “enhance” human rights gave the International Olympic Committee moral cover in July 2001, when it chose Beijing over Toronto. That was the deal: For its five-ringed prize, the Chinese government would show that it had a conscience.
Two years ago at the Turin Winter Games, I sat in an office with IOC president Jacques Rogge, a former surgeon and Olympic yachtsman refreshingly lacking in his predecessor’s oily self-importance. Beijing’s bid had been approved three days before Rogge took office, but he was fully on board, believing that the Games would transform China. He told me what he said to Beijing: “The values of the IOC are full respect [for] human rights. We ask you to do the best efforts so that leading up to the Games, during the Games and after the Games, you would have the best possible human rights record.” Rogge stared at me across the table. “They received the message,” he said.