An Olympic Opportunity

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By: Maria LaMagna <mlamagna@hilite.org>

In 2001, the world heard that in 2008, the city of Beijing, China, would host the Summer Olympics, beating other leading contenders Toronto, Paris and Istanbul. The announcement created much controversy. It seemed that everyone worldwide had an opinion.

Junior Danshi Su formed his opinion as well. Su was born in China, and he lived there until moving here in 1999. He was visiting China in 2001 when he heard the announcement that the Olympics would be in Beijing. “I was in China at the time,” he said. “People were lighting fireworks two minutes after (the site) was announced. People were really happy.”

This will mark the first Olympics held in China, and the international community has criticized the selection of the city for many reasons. In the United States, critics compare this selection to the infamous one made for the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-controlled Germany. International leaders have said that since the Chinese government has violated human rights on numerous accounts, the country should not be allowed to host the 2008 summer games.

Su said he hopes to attend the Olympics this summer in Beijing. He is planning to attend with his parents, but is not completely sure if his schedule will allow for the trip. He said that he disagrees with the world’s skeptics about the site. “I personally think it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “We’re not protesting for human rights. It’s just a sporting event.”

Dave Bardos, international relations teacher and chairman of the social studies department, said that this Olympic site has created a stir with reason. “There is the issue of human rights in China that cannot be ignored,” he said. Though he said he would not liken this year’s games to extremity of those in 1936, Bardos listed several reasons why China has historically created controversy, including what he called “the repressive nature of the regime,” and the country’s lack of cooperation in free trade.

It is perhaps for these reasons, though, that Bardos said holding the Olympics in Beijing is important. “It shows that the Chinese have been welcomed into the world community,” he said, “and acknowledges their economic achievement over the last 20 years.”

Furthermore, he said he felt that the Olympics have provided an incentive for the Chinese government to be on its best behavior while the world community watches. Without the plans to hold the games in Beijing, he said, the Chinese government might be “more aggressive than they already are. They want to make sure the games succeed.”

Bardos listed several advantages that the China could have if the Olympics go well. Among these, he said the Chinese could gain “prestige, more worldwide recognition, and the opportunity to be embraced by the world.”

Also, he said that with their efforts over the years to improve their athletes’ performance, China could be extremely competitive for the overall medal count. He said it could show the world what China has accomplished. He said, “Sport does show some indication of cultural success.”

In spite of the controversy, Bardos said that safety should not be a concern. He said he predicts that for the Olympics, China will have “amazing security. The last thing the Chinese want is something that shows them in a bad light.”

For the time being, Su is not concerned about security at all, and said he anticipates an unforgettable experience. He said that if he is able to attend the games this summer, he most looks forward to watching swimming. “I really want to see Michael Phelps,” he said. “I’m pretty excited.”

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