Editorial: Celebrate the Olympic Games

Hundreds of nations will participate in the 2008 Olympics, many of whom are in conflict, even at war with each other. All will be part of a single, peaceful event.

Politics and the Olympics have always been intertwined. Who could forget Jesse Owens’ gold medal wins in 1936 in Nazi Germany, poking Hitler in the eye? Who could forget the 1968 American medalists raising their fists in Mexico City? Or the horrendous 1972 killing of Israeli athletes competing in Munich? Or the Cold War boycotts of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles games?

This year, the Olympics will also take place in a political context.

For openers, it’s being held in China, a country that has had a socialist revolution and is experimenting with a socialist-market economy with some degree of success since it’s a tremendous rising economic and political power in the world.

Despite the inevitable mistakes and setbacks, China has moved and continues to move tens of millions of people out of severe poverty and works internationally towards a peaceful world order.

Millions will have the opportunity to see China’s accomplishments with their own eyes. The UN says in just a few short decades, China has taken more people out of poverty than any other nation in history. Modern cities are flourishing. While pollution, migration and corruption remain problems, these issues are being tackled openly and with urgency.

It is no secret that many would like to undermine China’s status as a rising power. Calls for boycotts of the Beijing Games have come from some in the Save Darfur and Free Tibet movements.

But what would such boycotts lead to? The world faces tremendous problems. Unfortunately, our government’s policies — designed to help maximize U.S. corporate profits — are the cause of many of those problems, like war and instability in the Middle East and climate-changing extreme carbon emissions. A boycott would just lead to more global political tensions.

The Beijing games offer an opportunity to defuse these conflicts, to see the world’s greatest athletes, and maybe — just maybe — to find some commonality and understanding among the world’s people.