Olympic Torch Relay takes bizarre turn

The choice of Beijing

Beijing came very close to winning the bid to host the Summer Olympics of 2000, being narrowly defeated by Sydney, Australia. It was only a matter of time therefore before the Chinese city got its chance to be host the world’s most prestigious sporting event.

The Chinese steered clear of the bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics and returned much better organised to take the top prize of hosting the 2008 Games.

Perhaps we should be reminded that the IOC, still operating as something of an eclectic organisation, and not the full range of NOCs, is the organisation that alone, makes the decision in respect of which of the bidding cities would host the Games on any given occasion. Many of the 205 NOCs do not have a choice in the matter.

Prior to the selection of the host city for the Summer Olympics of 2008 the vast majority of NOCs was literally inundated with thousands of emails on a daily basis advocating a vote against Beijing. In every instance the emails addressed China’s human rights record, its relations with Taiwan and the issues over Tibet. The emails came even in the face of China’s unparalleled economic growth and the fact that it has become such an economic giant globally that it can be considered as the country underwriting the USA’s war in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the major prop to the country’s economy given its investment in the latter’s bond issues.

Of course, many of those sending the emails seemed ignorant of the fact that NOCs are not directly involved in voting for host cities. 

We should also be mindful of the fact that even in the face of the Tiananmen Square debacle several years ago, brought to the world by the international media, the US government never relented on treating China with Most Favoured Nation status.

In a sense there are many in the International Olympic Movement who feel very strongly that the choice of Beijing by the IOC members may well have given greater priority to economic considerations than the lofty principles and values bequeathed to the Olympic Movement by one of its founders, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.