For more than a year, critics called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games. They cited human rights violations and a government that tries to keep its citizens in the proverbial dark when it comes to liberty.
Protesters chased the bright flame of the Olympic torch all over the world.
They were successful at times in halting the Olympic torch relay; they even managed to get the flame doused, temporarily. But the flame is glowing bright and the games are in full swing — despite a nearby war and plenty of pollution.
President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Winter Olympics did nothing to advance freedom in the world. In the end, the fall of the Iron Curtain was aided by openness.
People innately yearn to be free; the more the Soviet people directly saw western freedom in action, the more they pressed for freedom.
In Germany, it was not a boycott that broke down the Berlin Wall, but rather the welcoming open arms on the other side.
Ironically, while most of the world was mesmerized by the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, neighbors who were once part of the old Soviet empire took the opportunity to turn viciously on each other. Troops from Georgia invaded a tiny breakaway province of South Ossetia in an attempt to wrestle back control of the rebel territory. The Russians responded with tanks and bombs.
While the fight for liberty and control engages to the northwest of Beijing, the world’s best athletes are competing for the coveted gold.
The athletes are certainly not politicians, but they will stand as ambassadors for peace.
We can only hope the Olympic spirit of peace between nations inspires these two neighbors to resolve their conflicts non-violently. And we can hope even more the people of China, repressed by their government, will be touched by freedom and liberty during these Olympic Games.
That bright flame from the Olympic caldron can work to pierce the darkest corners of China and the violence beyond its borders. And here in the United States, it makes us appreciate our own freedom.
So in the end, boycotting is not the answer.
The best way is to continue to spread good will to our rivals rather than highlight their ill intentions.
It’s a lesson we can learn better from Olympic athletes than pompous politicians.