In an editorial last week the New York Times suggested that the International Olympic Committee, in its ceaseless shilling for China in the run-up to the games, had proven itself “beyond redemption”:
To win the coveted right to hold the Olympics, China promised to expand press freedoms for foreign journalists and dangled the prospect that, more broadly, human rights might also be improved. Instead, authorities have harassed and locked up critics, intimidated journalists, selectively denied visas, silenced grieving parents who lost children in the May 12 earthquake and relocated thousands of Chinese whose homes or businesses were seen as marring Beijing’s image.
Yet as the Times noted, the IOC “has enabled China at every step” Indeed, IOC president Jacques Rogge have been so embarrassingly craven to Chinese wishes that he looks to be playing roughly the role in 2008 that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels played at the 1936 Olympics.
During the controversy over the torch relay, Rogge largely dismissed concerns about human rights in China and the propaganda value of the games. He has made clear that the IOC will not tolerate any political expression on the part of athletes, saying “If you open up the Olympic arena to settling scores and making political statements, this is the end of the spirit of the Games…If you start having people on the podium with T-shirts with regional causes and conflicts or religious ones or racial ones, we can’t allow that.” As to an athlete putting a “Free Tibet” poster on the wall of his room in the Olympic village, Rogge said
“That is something that is to be considered as a political demonstration or propaganda and falls beyond what we call the freedom of expression,” he said. “Then we will talk with the athlete and we will ask them what the motives are and then we’ll see what he or she has to say.”
Rogge has lauded measures taken by Beijing to (mostly temporarily) clean the air, saying, “Authorities have done everything that is feasible and humanly possible to address this situation. What they have done is extraordinary.”
Then when the air proved to be extremely dirty anyway, sparking numerous complaints from the athletes, Rogge denied there was any pollution, saying during a BBC interview yesterday that the problem was merely heat and humidity. He even criticized athletes for wearing air masks, urging them to take them off because it might offend Chinese authorities.
Is Rogge the head of the IOC or is he China’s propaganda czar? At this point, it’s impossible to tell the difference.