Olympic Diplomacy


Tina Ehrami
by Tina Ehrami

Who ever thought that sports would be the one thing that states could use as a pressure tool to get to their political objectives? As it seems, the U.S. spin- doctoring- diplomats have done a fine job at pressuring China using their winning card, the Olympic Games.

Burma’s clampdown on pro-democracy protesters called for the U.S. to rethink their cooperation with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. China is the closest ally and a key trading partner of the military junta that rules Burma. The U.S. and other governments urged Beijing to use its influence to pressure Rangoon to change direction, but together with Russia, China blocked efforts to have the Security Council condemn the junta.In the U.S., lawmakers rallied around a “sense of Congress” resolution introduced last August by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), calling for a U.S. boycott “unless the Chinese regime stops engaging in and supporting serious human rights abuses against its citizens and those in the Sudan, Burma and North Korea.”Suddenly there was a load worth of double digit millions of Chinese fabricated toys sent back to China from its US destination, with the remark that the dolls were “dangerous”!

Using economic blackmail as a means in political negotiations isn’t new, but sports is! When China stood silent next to Burma, the U.S. openly gave it a second thought whether or not to send their Olympic sportsmen to join the Olympics in China. I hadn’t seen Chinese diplomats run that fast! Suddenly Burmese officials as in a fairy tale were willing to talk to the long lost and forgotten Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi!

This is what I call the power of sports! Even if it doesn’t show much sportsmanship to play the game using economic blackmail. But only this once, because it’s used for a good cause the world is willing to look the other way.


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Not so new!

by Nazanin (not verified) on

Hi Tina,
In 1979 Jimmy Carter led the American boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was a part of a package of actions to protest against the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, 1 million Afghans died in that war. Here is an article by Ali Ettefagh about this recent call for a boycott: Forget Failed Past Boycotts.

"The western world accelerated its embrace of the current Chinese regime after the 1989 events of Tiananmen Square and nursed China’s doctrines with Wal-Mart Capitalism. That crafted a slow and cautious, but positive, reconstruction of Chinese policies and politics. Within a generation, China is a member of WTO, the darling of capitalism both as a producer and a consumer, and is set to soften North Korea (a reliable, non-religious, client state of China). And the result is that, warts and all, Chinese people are in better economic, if not political, health than 20 years ago."