One act doesn't equal a boycott
By Andy Hase (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-10 06:51
The decision by Steven Spielberg to resign as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies was understandably disappointing for all concerned with the 2008 Games. But the opinion and choices of a single person must not be overstated.
One man does not a boycott make.
Since the birth of the Modern Olympics in 1896, the event has been universally heralded as the greatest sporting contest on the planet, and there is no reason to suggest this year's will be any less of a spectacle.
Some 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries and regions will vie for medals in Beijing, each striving to be faster, higher and stronger than those who have gone before them. Records and hearts will doubtless be broken.
Spielberg's choice to withdraw from the XXIX Olympiad will do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of spectators watching live in stadiums across China or the millions of TV viewers glued to their sets around the world.
Quite simply, the Olympic Games is bigger than that.
With just five months to go before the event begins, there is bound to be much discussion about Spielberg's "boycott" at the NPC and CPPCC sessions.
But I for one hope there is none.
There is about as much chance of the Hollywood icon's move damaging the Beijing Games as there is of me taking gold in the women's shot put.
Things must be kept in perspective.
In 1980, more than 60 countries, led by the US, refused to take part in the Moscow Games in protest over the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union a year earlier. In a tit-for-tat move, 14 countries joined a Soviet-led boycott of the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
Both decisions were significant and damaging.
The Olympics suffered because they were not contested by all of the world's finest athletes at that time.
In many cases, the best of the best were simply not on the track, in the pool or on the mats. And that was a huge disappointment for fans of the Games, and most of all, for the athletes who contested them.
For my part, there was the consolation of British sprinter Allan Wells taking gold in Moscow in the men's 100 m and silver in the 200 m. Would he have won had the all-powerful US men been racing alongside him? I doubt it. But I would be happy to wager he would have loved the chance to have taken them on.
Coincidentally, 1984 marked the return of China's athletes to the Olympics after almost 50 years away. It was also the year the country collected its first medal, a gold one at that, courtesy of Xu Haifeng in the 50m pistol-shooting event.
Since then, of course, China has gone on to become one of the leading forces in world athletics, having finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd on the medals table in the past three Games.
This year in Beijing, Chinese athletes will be aiming for the top spot, and that is what we must remember.
The Olympics is about sport and sportspeople, about passion and the will to win.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with Hollywood, or movie directors, or even political wrangling over trade figures.
So, until the IOC introduces medals for movies about extraterrestrials or man-eating sharks, let's not worry about Mr Spielberg or his personal views.
Let us just enjoy the sport.
And let the Games begin.
Andy Hase is a senior editor with China Daily
(China Daily 03/10/2008 page7)