The site of the student protest of 1989, the place of death for two to three thousand (Chinese Red Cross estimate) deaths on June 3 and 4 of 1989. And all the commentators had to say was "What a spectacular location for today's race."
The camera panned up and I saw the massive gilded photograph of Mao Tse Tung. A man who has been held responsible for 70 million deaths; his own people, murdered for the devil's own cause. I switched off the TV.
There probably are worse locations for the 2008 Olympics, and I am sure I could name some off the top of my head. But why does the civilized world do nothing? Why do we rely on badly organized protests and cheap bumper stickers to salve our consciences? The People's Republic of China is a communist state with capitalist economic power. Which makes the possibility of its implosion frustratingly remote. This government uses Yahoo and Google to track the computers of those dangerous citizens who dare look up Tiananmen Square or any other incident with less than perfect PR. This government still makes liberal use of arrest without warrent, surpression of political debate, and religious persecution. Families are held to completely unnatural standards of reproduction, and our own State Department record of China's human rights violations reads like a 1930s NKVD For Dummies.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't know whether we should have boycotted these games or not. I would like to believe that somehow our sense of right and wrong is not dictated by what is politically expedient, financially beneficial, or even by the possibility of athletic immortality. As much as world records matter, some things are simply more important. And as long as China continues to treat its citizens (not to mention the denizens of those countries China has invaded) as cogs in a machine, to be tinkered with or discarded at will, I think the rest of the world has a duty to put up some kind of a fight.