Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Bad Idea

It was a bad idea in 1980 for the United States. Ditto for the Soviet Union in 1984. Likewise for many of the African nations in 1976. I'm talking about boycotting the Olympic games of course. The idea of an Olympic boycott is spreading again due to China's human rights abuses at home and its support of oppresive regimes in Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea.
Some U.S. legislators are calling for a boycott, as are some Canadians . This has stirred some voices against the idea of a boycott as well, most notably in Germany.

My take is that boycotts never work. In fact, I think they are counterproductive. I remember watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics. My heroes from those games are John Walker, Lasse Viren, and Ivo van Damme, but they could just as easily have been Mike Boit, Miruts Yifter, and Filbert Bayi; all great African athletes who lost a chance to bring world attention to their respective countries and the plight of black South Africans suffering under apartheid by their NOT competing at Montreal. Likewise I thought the U. S. made a major mistake by not sending a team to the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Instead of changing Soviet policy at the time we simply gave them a propaganda coup by allowing them to claim that we were afraid to send a team.

And of course our past and present economic boycotts against countries such as Iraq, Cuba, North Korea and other countries have worked so well, right? No, actually in most cases, trade and interaction work more towards changing regimes than adopting boycotts and sanctions. I'm not saying that we shouldn't speak out against China's human rights policies - we should, but staying home from the 2008 Bejing Olympics won't help anyone in China or Sudan, while engaging in constructive engagement and reaching out through competing in events such as the Olympics (even as commercial and bloated as the Games have become) just might be of help in the long run.

No comments: