Olympic Torch Relay takes bizarre turn

The choice of Beijing was therefore communicated to the 205 NOCs as a fait acompli and it was the view of the IOC that as per usual all of its affiliates, given their understanding of the authority structure of the International Olympic Mo
vement and its mode of operation, more authoritarian than democratic, would commit themselves to the realisation of the most successful edition of the Olympic Games of all time.

For the Chinese authorities, fully in control of all aspects of governance in the country, inclusive of sports and more particularly the Olympic Committee, winning the bid to host the Summer Olympic Games of 2008 meant the greatest opportunity yet to showcase the country’s achievements to the rest of the world and therefore take its rightful place among the league of nations as a global economic and political power.

 

The politics of it all

British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been persuaded to withdraw his earlier decision to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and France’s President, Nicholas Sarkozy, have eagerly followed suit. US Presidential candidates – Obama, Clinton and McCain – have called on the incumbent President, George W. Bush, to follow suit and stay away from attending the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Bush is yet to commit to staying away. Of course with London hosting the 2012 Olympic Games we can expect the Chinese leadership to respond by also declaring at some stage their own decision to stay away. 

From the very beginning, however, the decision of the IOC to award the Olympic Games of 2008 to Beijing, China, was always political. That the IOC and others within the International Olympic Movement have been trying to escape this accusation remains one of the highlights of the current crisis plaguing the Olympic Torch Relay.

While to political observers the current crisis was inevitable, the IOC somehow appeared to look in the opposite direction, more in hope than anything else, that the Olympic Movement’s values and traditions would hold sway and that the protests would be kept at bay.

No such thing.

In the context of what is currently happening with the Olympic Torch Relay the IOC now appears significantly and rather embarrassingly naïve.

The IOC has been backed into a corner for which it has only itself to blame. From this corner the organisation now seeks to prevail on its members to be sensitive to the Chinese, to recognise that the country operates under a different system of government and to respect the Olympic Charter in so far as the actions of their athletes are concerned.