Friday, August 08, 2008


Finally, the build-up is over and the Olympic Games begin today. All the concerns and comments about the politics, whether everything would be ready, the pollution, and even the BBC graphics will take second place to the celebration of sport and human achievement.

But through all the hype and the preparation, there has been a constant thread of concern about China’s record on human rights. From Steven Spielberg withdrawing his involvement, through the protest that followed the Olympic Torch, to President Bush’s speech in Thailand the other day; human rights have been much mentioned.

In all of this, I think the one protest that carries the most weight was the letter from more than 40 athletes asking the Chinese President to improve human rights. Their letter carries weight because they are going to China to compete in the Games. And because they remind us of the Olympic ideal of “promoting … human dignity”. This comes from the Olympic Charter, and it’s what the Olympic Games are supposed to be about.

Of course, human rights are not simply a Chinese issue. The reports about the first prosecution at Guantanamo Bay should remind us of that. But as the Olympics start, it is China that will be centre stage on our televisions.

I’m looking forward to the Olympics, I’m looking forward to cheering on people breaking world records, watching those who can moving faster than I will ever be able to and seeing all sorts of human achievements. I enjoy the Olympics because I enjoy people, and I enjoy marvelling at what human beings are capable of. And because of that I have to also ask questions about how human beings are treated in China, in Guantanamo Bay and in this country.

Given as 'Thought for the Day', BBC Radio Bristol. 8.8.8.

1 comment:

Paul Davison said...

It was a spectacle, some of which could only be attained with the control their system allows over the individual. I hope London 2012 will celebrate the individual freedom which is part of the heritage Britain transmitted to us in the US and elsewhere.

By the way, a good job for the British team!