Olympic decision – Beijing bid shows politics still permeates sport

At the highest level, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will prove again on Friday, it is about little else.
sportbusiness.com will be reporting from Moscow today, giving you up-to-the-minute news on the chosen city to host the 2008 Olympic Games. A decision is expected sometime around 4pm British Summer Time.
IOC members have been charged this week with the momentous decision of deciding whether Beijing should stage the 2008 Olympic Games, a decision which will resonate far beyond the confines of a sports arena.
Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka are the other candidates.
China’s record on human rights has attracted criticism throughout the world and lies at the heart of the IOC’s decision.
In response Beijing bid organisers took the only course open to them at a news conference on Thursday and confronted the issue head on.
Wang Wei, secretary general of the Beijing bid committee, said awarding the Games to China would accelerate economic growth and enhance the quality of life in China, including human rights.
“We believe a winning Beijing bid will make history because it is the first time the Olympic Games will be held in China, a land with 1.3 billion people and over 3,000 years of recorded history,” he said.
“An Olympic Games staged in Beijing promises to fulfil the IOC mission to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating people through sport.”
Demonstrations by Tibetan activists in Moscow this week highlighted the human rights issue and recalled the words of former IOC president, Lord Killanin of Ireland.
“Ninety-five percent of my problems as president of the IOC involved national and international politics,” he said.
During the 1950s the Olympic Games became another forum for the Cold War, with the United States vying with the Soviet Union and then East Germany to top the medals’ table.
The most famous political demonstration by athletes followed the 1968 Mexico Olympic 200 metres final when two black American runners bowed their heads and delivered the black power salute on the victory podium.
The Games hit its lowest point four years later in Munich in the most political gesture of all. Palestinian gunmen brought the Games to a temporary halt by seizing Israeli athletes hostage in the Olympic village.
A bloodbath followed in which 11 Israeli competitors died.
Successive political boycotts threatened the future of the Games after black African nations walked out of the 1976 Montreal Olympics because of a New Zealand rugby union tour of South Africa.
Four years later the United States led a western boycott of the Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the previous year. The Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Now the issues are different with China attempting to join rather than remain in isolation from the rest of the world.
“As China has adopted a more open policy over the past two decades, economic development has improved the quality of life of our people,” Wang said. “Many share the aspiration for cultural and sports exchange and the desire to become part of the international community.
“Hosting the Olympics will be one of the most effective ways to achieve such goals.”