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The Olympics is not a place to play politics

By Peter McLaren | | Updated: 2022-01-30 09:42
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Luo Jie/China Daily

The recent report that the US is planning to disrupt the Beijing Olympics by encouraging its athletes to criticize China, or to underperform during the games is, if true, another example of its "cowboy politics" that resembles the animosity of a Cold War rival rather than the actions of a responsible, good faith sponsor of athletic competition the world deserves to see.

As a fan of the Winter Olympics since they were first broadcast on television—and as a Canadian who enjoyed playing pick-up hockey on a makeshift rink that my father made in our backyard and whose grandson now plays on his high school hockey team—I represent many fans of the Olympics. And like many fans I enjoy watching the tremendous skills displayed by athletes from around the world who put aside political and cultural differences in order to celebrate the best that sports has to offer.

The Olympics is not a place to play politics. It is a place for people to come together in competitive spirit as world class athletes and promote new levels of understanding and awareness across nations. It is a place to make new friendships and to enjoy the hospitality of the host country.

In short—the Olympics is an educational site with the potential for many teachable moments. Sadly, the diplomatic boycott spearheaded by the United States has tainted the reputation of the Olympics even before the games have begun.

If the behavior of the US that we are witnessing during these pre-games political shenanigans seems familiar to you, it very likely represents a macrocosm of our own neighborhoods as we were growing up and what shaped us as children and adolescents and how we were educated about world culture and history.

How did we make friends then? How did we resolve conflicts with our neighbors? Did we remain humble when we defeated our opponents? How did we lose gracefully to our rivals in a sports competition? How did we overcome our prejudices? Did we behave as responsible citizens and if so, could we take pride today in our country without letting our nationalism become toxic?

The pandemic has not brought China and North America closer. It could have—it had the potential to do that—but that potential was wasted by gunslinging politicians in cowboy hats, looking for a fight. But the Beijing Olympics presents a new opportunity to make up for lost opportunities and for political rivals to show the same courtesy and good faith as their athletes.

The Olympics can still be the venue for all that to happen.

Dangerous times lie ahead, as the pandemic continues. What this means is that both countries need each other more than ever—not only for their own survival but that of the entire globe—and this requires co-operation and rising above our differences. Failing that, the entire world could end in chaos.

Global policymakers need to fight the cynicism that seems endemic to the times in which we live, and act in the interest of the global community.

Peter McLaren is Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Chapman University, USA. He is the editor and author of 50 books and his writings have been translated into 25 languages.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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