EDITORIAL FRIDAY 08.08.08.
It would be hard to think of a more auspicious date for the Olympic Games to begin than the Eighth of the Eighth of Oh Eight, at Eight minutes past Eight pm. Those who believe in good luck omens and superstitions, which obviously must include the organizers of the Beijing Olympics, must feel somehow reassured by the pleasing symmetry of the numbers. Of course, logically, it is no different than any other date on the calendar, but it is important not to underestimate the power of belief. People who believe in a certain outcome are more likely to act in such a way as to bring it about. That is the true power of good luck charms.
With all of the political controversy surrounding the decision to award the Games to China, and with all of the concern about the effects of the obvious pollution problem, now is the time for the focus to turn to the true meaning of the Games. And what exactly is that? At one level, it is a sporting event, an event which should be conducted in the spirit of goodwill beyond the parameters of politics. Yet at another level it is also an opportunity to subtly influence those politics purely because it is an interaction of cultures in the context of that spirit of goodwill.
Some believe that athletes should be allowed to speak their own minds about such issues as human rights, free from the threat of censure. While that is most certainly our way of life here, it is not necessarily the case in China. The first rule of travel is “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” It’s not necessary, nor appropriate for athletes to be making political statements or protests at the Games. If they have strong feelings on such matters the most sincere form of protest would have been to refuse to participate. Athletes, I believe, can achieve far more by being the excellent representatives of their country that they are, and ambassadors for goodwill.
At the same time, there is a role for our national leaders, including our Prime Minister, to continue to push for dialog on these very important issues. That is part of their job description, and part of their responsibility as leaders. Just as it would be inappropriate for our athletes to be canvassing such matters in China, it would also be inappropriate for our politicians not to be.
As for the rest of us, let’s enjoy the Games for what they should be: a joyous celebration of human achievement. Let the Games begin.