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Boycott?

10:55 AM, Mar 31, 2008 • By JENNIFER CHOU
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China seems determined to ascribe the unrest in Tibet to a concerted effort aimed at sabotaging the Beijing Olympics.

The world community, meanwhile, has demonstrated that it has little appetite for a boycott. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) clearly prefers "silent diplomacy." None of the 27 foreign ministers of the EU, meeting in Slovenia this past weekend, favored a boycott of the Games as a whole and none even "wished to speak about" boycotting the opening ceremony.

Not without irony, the handful of world leaders who have so far declined invitations to attend the opening ceremony--German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Czech president Vaclav Klaus, Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and prime minister Andrus Ansip--are all from former Eastern bloc countries that experienced life under communist rule.

That sports and politics should not mix was a theme voiced frequently by Beijing even before Tibet focused world attention on the Games. This past February, for example, after Steven Spielberg cut ties with the Beijing Olympics over the Darfur crisis, China criticized the famed director's decision as "naïve and simple-minded," adding that it was "unacceptable" to link politics to sports.

The Save Darfur Coalition has noted how China itself has had a long history of politicizing the Olympics--from its bullying of Taiwan within the IOC to its own participation in the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

For decades, China used the Olympics as a political weapon against Taiwan. In 1956, it pulled out of the Melbourne Games one day before they were to start to protest the presence of the Taiwan delegation. It was not until 1979 that the "two-China problem" was settled by the IOC and Beijing agreed to participate.

In February 1980, China took part in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. In May that year, it joined the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In July 1980, Chinese athletes, along with those from 28 other nations, took part in the Liberty Bell Classic in Philadelphia, organized as an alternative to the Moscow Games.

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether China's crackdown in Tibet merits an Olympic boycott of any kind. Indeed, even the Dalai Lama has said that a boycott is not the answer. Beijing's righteous indignation in suggesting that the Olympic Games should not be linked to politics, however, is clearly disingenuous, if not outright hypocritical.