Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Torture Relay: Taking Apart Some Spurious Arguments
While Beijing has succeeded in stage-managing enough happy photo-ops for the Olympic torture relay, the tamasha has neither ended, nor has the issue been addressed. The apologists for China are already claiming that “pushing it into a corner” will yield no results. These are the same sages who claimed that “rewarding” China by handing it the Olympics would incentivize the genocidal nuts leading the country to improve their human rights records and provide greater freedoms to its citizenry. It’s a bit like using the Olympics to incentivize Hitler into not building gas chambers!!!
In the past few weeks, I have had lots of emails telling me that “sports should not be politicized.” Should not be? Which planet do these people live on? Sports have ALWAYS been political and none more so than the Olympics.
One of the vocal supporters of the current torture relay has been Siegfried Eifrig, who even at the ripe old age of 98 has been granting TV interviews arguing that “sports should not be political.” Bet few of us remember Mr. Eifrig’s illustrious past.
Eifrig is the “Aryan ideal” who ran the last stretch of the very first Olympic torch relay for the 1936 Berlin games. Photographs and the creepily memorable Leni Reifenstahl film show Eifrig proudly bearing the torch through Berlin streets lined with innumerable Nazi flags and cheering brown shirts. Makes me wonder how photographs of Ravi Shastri bearing the Beijing torch shall be viewed by generations that follow us!
Lets be honest here, the Olympics are not about sports but nationalistic pride. That is why the medal tallies are sorted by nation-states and not individual sportspeople or events. Moreover, the moment a sportsperson puts on the national uniform to compete in ANY sports (yes, this includes cricket!), they are no longer some idealised apolitical apogee of physical prowess. Wearing a uniform means that they are no different from soldiers of a nation-state Albeit, of course, less violent!
So lets have no more spurious discussion of how the Olympics are apolitical. Or indeed how rewarding a murderous, brutal, oppressive regime will somehow incentivize it to changing its policies. NO dictator in history has ever been rewarded into benevolence. And so will be the case with China.
Lets make sure that the torture relay gets the “tunnel of shame” it deserves.
Jai Bharat! Jai Tibet!