Why China Has the Torch

A New York Times article discusses the political reasons behind the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award China the Olympic Games, and why it still defends the choice. Perhaps the most commonly known reason for choosing China was to encourage democratic change, but this article also mentions a more covert reason behind the Olympics: to raise China up as a rival superpower to the United States, possibly without regard to its human rights abuses and repressive government.

The I.O.C. was well aware of the risks when it awarded the Summer Games to Beijing in 2001. But committee members believed in the inherent power of the Games — that they could foster change by focusing world attention on China, just as the 1988 Summer Games in South Korea helped advance that country’s transition to democracy.

Now the question looming as China prepares for the opening ceremonies is whether the committee made the right bet or took too lightly the possibility that protests or unforeseen events could divide rather than unite the nations whose athletes are gathering in Beijing.

Seven years ago, the prevailing attitude within the I.O.C. was that the world’s most populous nation deserved to host the world’s largest sporting event. China, after all, had acted with restraint after losing by two votes to Sydney, Australia, to host the 2000 Summer Games, even when the deciding votes turned out to have essentially been bought.

See also the Bloomberg News on President Hu’s statements to the politics surrounding the Olympics:

China’s President Hu Jintao said attempts to politicize the Beijing Olympics undermine the spirit of the games, downplaying criticism over press freedom and human rights.

China has worked to make its “long-cherished dream” of hosting the games an opportunity to promote the Asian nation’s own development and improve its environment, as well as stage a successful sporting event, Hu said in a rare press briefing one week before the Olympic opening ceremony.


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