Saturday, April 5, 2008

Olympic Thoughts

I am a big sports fan and look forward to the Summer Olympics every 4 years and this year is no different. Track and field is my favorite event but I'll watch most any sport and gymnastics, volleyball (indoor and beach), and tennis are high on the list. August 8th thru 24th will find me glued to the TV at odd hours of the day/night.

Why do I say odd hours? I'm sure most of you are aware but for those that have been holed up in a cave somewhere, this years summer games will be in Beijing, China. That means "prime time" events occurring in the wee hours of the morning, and I'm sure we can depend on NBC to delay the majority of the coverage so we can play the game of avoiding results all day long so we can watch it in our prime time. What fun.

When the games were awarded to Beijing, there were immediate concerns given China's less than stellar record on human rights, openness, and pollution, but all the right people said all the right things and the concerns went away ... at least for a time. As we grow closer (124 days) to the games, those concerns are coming back.

The pollution problem, while better, doesn't appear to be fixed, there continue to be human rights concerns, and there is talk that media covering the Olympics will not be allowed to have full internet access and take pictures of or report everything they see. There is talk that some may boycott the opening ceremony (which would be far better than boycotting the whole games!).

A sampling of stories over just the past few weeks includes:

  • It's time for Rogge to speak out - "IOC president remains silent while world leaders express their discontent about China as the Olympics approach."

  • Waiting to inhale in Beijing - "After a 45-minute jog on some of the same streets where the marathons will be run, this reporter experienced minor discomfort and heaviness in my lungs and griminess on my skin."

  • IOC flouting Olympic charter by ignoring Tibet issue: HRW - "It also asked the IOC to publicly assess the extent to which current human rights violations linked to the preparation of the Games were violating the commitments made by China at the time of its bid to host the Olympic Games, and to establish a standing mechanism to address human rights concerns."

  • Stop blocking the internet, Olympics committee tells China - "China routinely blocks access to certain sites on the internet and can implement at will a blacklist of words that cannot be found and will crash a search engine." and "Wikipedia remained outside the firewall — apparently because of its many references to such sensitive issues as the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Dalai Lama and Tibet. Many international blogs cannot be accessed because their host servers are blocked." (by writing this blog I may be getting Sun's server on a blacklist?)

  • China may ban live broadcasts during Games - "Earlier this week, however, officials with the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee, or BOCOG, told executives at BOB that the live shots [of Tiananmen Square] were canceled, ..."

  • IOC inspectorate confirms that games will not be censored - "China routinely uses 30-second to one-minute delays to control broadcasts on state-run TV. The Olympic torch lighting ceremony last month in Greece was disrupted by a protester who ran up behind a top Chinese official giving a speech. The image was seen around the world but has not been shown on state TV in China."

  • Gebrselassie pulls out of Olympic marathon due to pollution fears - "The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometers in my current condition"

On the plus side, it appears NBC is going to expand their digital coverage but I'm sure it will be at a price.

So there seems to be some movement and continued promises, so I am hopeful that the games will occur without incident, but I have to say I'm not optimistic. But we'll see.