- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

"The Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not the politicians … Politics has no place in sport," said the president of the American Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, in 1935. He went on to point out that American athletes should not become involved in "the present Jew-Nazi altercation."

Six million murdered Jews later, that same Olympian spirit survives, untouched by history's catastrophic lesson. Last Friday, Sandra Baldwin, today's American Olympic Committee chairman, in justifying the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to grant China the 2008 Olympics, said she was "Ok with Beijing. I think Olympics should supersede politics."

The IOC's Director-General Francois Carrard didn't have any problems with the decision either: "Human rights is a very serious issue in the entire world. It is not up to the IOC to interfere in this issue." Dick Pound, the senior Canadian IOC member, added: "In the Olympic context, China is a perfectly good citizen." Of course, in that context, so was Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: "In anticipation of both the Winter Olympics and the Summer Games, the Fuhrer directed that signs stating 'Jews not wanted' and similar slogans should be removed from primary traffic arteries." The Holocaust Museum went on to describe the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in its section on "The Facade of Hospitality," pointing out that Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda instructed the German media that "The racial point of view should not be used in any way in reporting sports results; above all Negroes should not be insensitively reported … Press coverage should not mention that there are two non-Aryans among the women …The Northern section of the Olympic village, originally utilized by the Wehrmacht, should not be referred to as 'Kasernel' (the barracks), but will hereafter be called 'North Section Olympic Village.' "

But the current regime in China has not even lived up to Hitler's cynical sense of tact and decorum. In the three months leading up to last week's vote for China, they have: closed down dissenting newspapers, arrested prominent editors, shutdown or fined 14,000 Internet bars, intimidated 64,000 other such Internet sites, prosecuted American citizens on trumped-up charges and executed 1,791 Chinese citizens many of whom were first herded into sports stadiums and jeered in ritual public humiliation. After they were executed, mobil medical units arrived to harvest vital organs from their still-warm bodies.

It is particularly revelatory of the Chinese government's evolving mentality that in the lead-up to China's failed bid for the 2000 Olympics, sensitive to allegations of human rights abuses, they felt obliged to release prominent political prisoners (of course, after they lost the bid they re-arrested most of them.) This time, the Chinese government felt no such compunction.

President Bush's spokesman caught up in the Avery Brundage spirit announced that "The president does not view this as a political matter." Nor does his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who said: "What we do know is that American athletes are going to go there, and they are going to compete and hopefully compete very well and bring home lots of gold medals." Goody goody.

But while Western officials repeat their mantra that the Olympics are above politics, the Chinese are busy contradicting them. In organized demonstrations after their win, according to The Washington Post, the crowds sang "Without the Communist Party, There would Be No New China." (Well, at least we are still ahead of the Chinese when it comes to song-writing.) "This means people around the world will stop bullying China" said a demonstrator.

Yuan Weimin, China's minister of sports, used the decision to claim that "On the human rights question, we have achieved a tremendous progress." A prominent Chinese land developer explained, "This has huge meaning for us. It constitutes a recognition of China by the international community … China has arrived."

China's official New China News Agency issued a statement that " wisdom proves that the cause of democracy and rule of law will continually advance."

But The Washington Post reported that "senior intellectuals worried that the Games will serve only to strengthen the rule of the Communist Party, holding back political reform."

While history does not always repeat itself, it seems to be trying to in the case of the Chinese Olympics. When Germany was awarded the 1936 Olympics, the IOC president, Count Henri Baillet-Latour of Belgium indicated that the choice signaled Germany's "return to the world community after defeat in WWI." And, after the Olympics the New York Times of all papers reported that the Games put Germany "back in the fold of nations," and even made them "more human again."

As late as June 1939, after Nazi Germany had taken Austria and Czechoslovakia, after the concentration camps were being built and filled, the IOC, claiming to have made its decision "regardless of political considerations," voted unanimously to give Germany the 1940 Winter Olympics "in the interests of sport and the Olympic movement." Germany withdrew the invitation in November 1939, two months after it had invaded Poland.

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