Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics and World Issues

I so look forward to the Olympics every two years. Summer more so than winter, but I do enjoy them both. As a historian, the last few Olympics have been incredibly interesting to me in that they were held in significant locations such as Athens and dealt with issues of political question such as the dismantling of the USSR. This Olympics however has so many instances that make me one, thankful that I was born and live in the US, and two excited that many people are being exposed to world issues that they would have normally never realized exist. It is often nauseating how na├»ve people are to the world’s problems and the history that brought them about. Now, I am very aware that my sugar coated suburban upbringing has not made me well rounded, but I seek to learn of the world and its issues. Thankfully, I have a profession that allows me this opportunity from a young and often unbiased view.

Here are just a few issues that have been brought up during the coverage of this Olympics…

(I will not go into the human rights issues with China and Tibet because it would just be REALLY LONG! There are too many links to connect you to here, so research it on your own. Please.)
1.) The simply incredible idea that this is even being held in Beijing! This is the place that is most often recognized for punishing people by death for speaking out for example Tiananmen Square. This is a country that is slightly smaller than the United States and holds tightly to traditions that date back to the 220 BC when the Qin dynasty united China. Yes, that is BC!! (Currently it is taught BCE – before common era- due to separation of church and state.) It is juxtaposition in every sense of the word. Completely modern cities next to winding villages of old tradition, small families in large urban homes with extended families squeezing into tiny country homes, traditional agricultural communities only 30 short minutes away from a Wal-Mart. The children of China may have no idea of how big a deal this is for their country. Sadly, the vast majority of Americans have no idea either.
2.) Despite the positives in China opening its doors, there are still glaring signs of the Communist state. The fact that China pulled the Visa of a stellar athlete because of rumors that he would speak of the issues in Tibet during interviews. Nothing athletic, nothing criminal, nothing “enhancing drug” related, but simply because speech is government controlled in China.

Beyond China…
3.) An Afghani athlete disappeared within hours of arriving in China. It is still being investigated.
4.) Saudi Arabia has a population of 28 million, but the delegation has no women competing, because they still need a man (father, oldest brother, or husband) to grant permission for them to either work or travel. This is illegal according to the IOC, so they may be banned from the London 2012 events if they do not change. This is religiously based, and I do not foresee them altering doctrine for the IOC.
5.) Only two women are representing the United Arab Emirates, and they are the Prime Minister’s daughters. Well, at least they are there! Side note – I was offered a job there 5 years ago and was told that because I was a woman, I would have two armed guards with me 24/7. Needless to say, I did not take the job.
6.) There are several countries that have citizens that are so poor it is horrifying. These are countries where the average YEARLY salary is around $150. I do not care if the cost of living is cheaper than industrialized countries, this is upsetting!
7.) Several countries have been war torn for years, and many still are during these competitions. What will these athletes go home to in a few weeks? There will be no Nike or Gatorade endorsements.
8.) Speaking of number 7, while our president (whom I like – sorry Eb) is chuckling with and issuing high fives to Vladimir Putin, the Russians are attacking Georgia. Literally, this is happening simultaneously. How quickly their friendship is on thin ice. Three days later, GWB warns Putin that this action threatens our relationship with Russia. Putin is mad that we flew Georgian troops back from Iraq. Yes, GWB took their soldiers out of the Middle East.
9.) Venezuela has lots of issues and we all know that their president HATES Bush! But just as an example of how odd Chavez really is, it was mentioned during opening ceremonies that he changed the entire country’s time zone to be just 30 minutes ahead of New York. What?! Weird!
10.) It has also been brought up, thankfully, how terribly unsupportive the government of Myanmar has been following the cyclone that hit several months back. While many stateside raised money for the people there, it was nothing like the outpouring of support for the tsunami in Phuket. This is because most countries knew the aid would not be distributed. When aid was issued, the government kept it for themselves. The people in that country are still homeless, without clean water or food, and suffering.

Despite all of the turmoil, questions, and suffering, each country replaces that with pride for the success of their athletes…medal or no medal. Hopefully, by the time that adorable little Chinese boy from the opening ceremony is an adult, the world will be even the slightest bit different. At least I hope more people will be aware of what is going on in the world.
Maybe that boy will run for president of China. Well, now I might just be getting crazy.


Just say Julie said...

I think you should also mention the opening ceremony lip synch scandal.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the history lesson teacher as I am one of those sheltered suburbanites :o) ...but at least I know it & do my best at learning about other parts of the world. I do feel VERY fortunate for living where I do though!