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People and Politics Forum 24. 03. 2008

"Should politics be kept out of sport?"

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Tibet and the Olympics - The Politics in the Games

China's crackdown on pro-independence protests in Tibet has thrown the spotlight on Beijing's human rights record, just months before the city hosts the Olympics. Calls to boycott the games are opposed by many athletes, who simply want the chance to represent their country and compete for gold. "People and Politics" looks at how sport is used as leverage in a political and diplomatic tussle over Tibet.

Our Question is:

"Should politics be kept out of sport?"

Gerhard Seeger, Philippines, writes:

"China's approach to human rights has been known for a long time, as has its relationship to Tibet. But China was still awarded the Olympic Games. Ulrike Mayfarth was right when she said in your piece: "Mammon rules." The Chinese people cannot help how their government behaves. And the Chinese people are poorly informed. If a boycott were imposed, the Chinese might never discover the reason."

Lukas Kranich, Chile:

"A sporting festival like the Olympic Games cannot take place without politics. But the choice of host country needs to be carefully considered, in order to prevent countries which ignore human rights profiting from such sporting events. I would also be interested to know how far Angela Merkel can throw a discus."

Stephan Pabel, Brazil:

"If sportsmen and sportswomen represent countries, such events are inevitably political, whether one likes it or not. Those who take part in the Olympic Games do not represent themselves, but rather a nation or a state."

Richard Kapp, Australia:

"Yes, the politicians should stay out of it! If the western media reported fairly, rather than one-sidedly attacking China, there would be no need for this debate."

Tobias Maiwald, Spain:

"The Olympic Games is an expression of the fact that we are one global community, and they should have a fitting role in world politics. Beijing is using sport for its own ends, and manipulating other countries."

Helge Weyland, Argentina:

"Politics is linked with everything and everyone in society, with family, school, university, religion, etc., and also with sport. That is why politicians must use their influence when excessive force is employed as in this case. A boycott of the Games should be considered, as a warning."

Walter Stoewe, USA :

"Sport likes to think of itself as unpolitical. The communication between sportspeople of different nations makes a large contribution to world peace. So politics should keep out of sport and not fan the flames of unrest and mistrust. Sportspeople should be role models for politicians and show them what 'sporting behaviour' is."

Waltraud Maassen, Neuseeland:

"Sportspeople have a narrow view on questions of sport and politics. You can't blame them for that. But in today's world they should not forget what the Olympics stand for. The message of the Marathon of ancient times was that war is over. The world has a chance to show that it is serious about human rights - by boycotting the Games."

Adalbert Goertz, USA:

"Yes, the Olympics should be used as a means to put pressure in support of human rights."

Jorge G. Riva, Argentina:

"Absolutely no, sports and politics are cultural facts belonging to mankind. But the hypocrisy shown by the western powers, USA. the EU etc toward Chinese authorities regarding the Tibet crisis is astonishing."

Christian Neumann-Redlin, Bolivia:

"The current situation in China is comparable with the 1936 Olympics in Germany.While the whole world was applauding Hitler, it was already known that the Jews were being persecuted. There should be political reaction to the Beijing Games."

Klaus Warkentin, Mexico:

"Peace and unity amongst nations are basic principles both of politics and the Olympics. Something that apparently wasn't considered when the Games were awarded to China. The opening ceremony should be boycotted in protest at China's bloody suppression of Tibet. And TV stations should show their support... and carry reports on Tibet."

Claus Stauffenberg, Australia:

"The IOC is an organisation that has a past history of corruption and graft. That China was selected to host the event should not be held against the athletes, who in the truest principles of the Games, wish to compete. That being said, governments should admonish and censure the IOC for clearly serving self-interests above the interests and principles of the Olympic Games themselves."

Dieter Reigber, Thailand:

"Top sport has become a major business factor, with high professional earners. If economic sanctions are levelled against countries, why not against the Games. How else to
combat totalitarian regimes?"

Martin Burmeister, Venezuela:

"Sadly, it's hardly possible to keep politics out of sport. But it should only happen in complete emergencies."

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