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Since the late 1800s the world has come together every two years in the spirit of athletic competition. The best of the best pitting strength, agility and speed against each other during the Olympic games. During these games athletes of all nations, races, religions and cultures put differences aside to test not only their own abilities, but to bring glory to their home countries.
Even on the verge of war the Olympics went on. When some countries boycotted the games for various political rationales, they still went on. In 1980 the United States, along with several other countries, boycotted the games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and in turn many countries from the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Even though the games were smaller, athletes still went on to compete for their country.
Now several countries are considering boycotts of this year's Olympics in Beijing to protest human-rights abuses in China. In March, Tibetan protesters took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Beijing rule, which led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, who now lives in India. Since then protesters have been beaten, arrested and even killed. Chinese officials have also restricted the coverage of the protests by foreign journalists, keeping the world from getting a true picture of what is really going on.
Leaders from France, Germany and Britain have already said they will either skip the games in their entirety or just the opening ceremony. U.S. House members, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are urging President George W. Bush to do the same.
"I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," Pelosi said during an interview on "Good Morning America." She doesn't think, however, that athletes should boycott the games.
What message does it send to our athletes who have worked hard for years to get to the greatest athletic event to have their country's leader not attend? The Olympics is not and should never be about politics and this is what government officials around the world are doing.
Pelosi said while in India Feb. 21 that "if freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world."
Are we condoning what China's government is doing? No. Is the Olympics the best place to draw attention to what's happening? Of course, it's a world event that everyone has their eye on. But the Olympics isn't about politics and it's defiantly not about the host country. It's about the athletes. It's about unification, putting aside differences and watching the world compete as equals.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "We hope to enhance mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation with other peoples through the games. We must follow the purpose of the Olympics and not politicize the games."
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