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People and Politics Forum 01. 08. 2008

"Can major sporting events trigger political change?"

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More information:

Countdown to the Olympics - Germany's Expectations

The Summer Olympic Games in China begin in just a week. Even before Beijing was selected to host the games, critics denounced the notion of allowing an autocratic country to put on the event. After the Chinese government's crackdown on Tibet earlier this year, there was again widespread criticism of China's Communist leaders. Tensions have since subsided, but what expectations do Germany's athletes and political leaders have going into the games? What lasting impact will the Olympics have on China?

Our Question is:

"Can major sporting events trigger political change?"

Heinz Boschek, in Canada, says:

"Major sports events only lead to political change if the political situation in an undemocratic country has already become untenable.: for instance internatioonal football before and during the 1968 "Prague Spring". If an undemocratic country is more or less stable then a sports event will usually stabilise existing structure because sporting success fuels superficial national pride and diverts from a country's problems. China belongs to this second category of dictatorship."

René Junghans, writing from Brazil, doesn't harbour any doubts either:

"The Olympics won't influence China at all, that's what I think. It's just a big propaganda show that glosses over fascist and dictatorial developments in the country. China wants a place in world politics, at all cost, pretending that everything is OK in Tibet and that poverty will be rolled back, not willing to admit that abject poverty of the masses sits side by side with the massive wealth of just a few. I say there should be a Beijing boycott. Since that,sadly, isn't happening, reporters from around the globe should unmask China's reality and perhaps help encourage democracy. But pressure should also be applied to stop Chinese product piracy that creates millions of Chinese jobs, but kills the same number of jobs abroad."

Gerhard Seeger, in the Philippines, is a disbeliever:

"I don't think sports events can influence or even change a political agenda. I am not sure but I don't think that has ever been the case. A boycott won't do any good either because it could be used by dictatorships to ferment antagonism towards other countries."

Erwin Scholz, Costa Rica, getting poetic, thinks it's futile:

"Sometimes sport excites the fans,

but when you think of people's plans

to request a less hard-fisted style.

Well, a weeping willow is more likely to smile."

The People and Politics desk reserves the right to edit and abbreviate texts.