Thursday, April 03, 2008

As Close to a Boycott as We Should Get

Harper sitting Beijing Olympics out

With all the human rights-related protest in advance of this summer's Olympic games in China reaching a fever pitch, many continue to call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Today, Canadians among them received news that Canada is going to get as close to that as it's going to get. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not attend the opening ceremonies.

"I would continue to urge China to respect human rights and peaceful protest, not just in Tibet but everywhere," Harper announced. "And I would also encourage the government of China to understand that its growing wealth, its growing profile in the world and of course the profile of the Olympics will put a greater and greater spotlight on its record in this regard."

"My strong advice would be to take these concerns seriously because I think they are likely to grow rather than diminish if we see a repetition of the current pattern."

Of course, it's a long way short of a full-out boycott, and many of those who have been calling for a boycott likely won't be satisfied by it.

But frankly those who are calling for the boycott just happen to be, conveniently, the people with the absolute least to lose from such a boycott. Put oneself in the shoes of an athlete who has been training their entire lifetime to pursue their Olympic dream, and it doesn't take long to figure out that denying these people their (likely) once in a lifetime opportunity simply wouldn't be right.

Harper sitting out the Beijing Olympics sends a message to China. Perhaps not as strong as message as many people would like, but a message nonetheless.

It's as close to a boycott as Canada is going to get, and those with a minimal personal investment in the Olympics should be satisfied with it. They likely won't be, but they should be.

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