I love blinding hypocrisy – especially when it’s of Olympic proportions. For the UK to suggest they might ban some officials from Syria connected with recent attrocities is a brilliant contrast to their refusal to ban Dow from the Olympic stadium for their Bhopal connections.
On one hand, you could easily just pin the blame on money: Syria isn’t contributing money and Dow is. Simple.
But I think British ministers actually believe they are being moral and upstanding leaders of society in their latest pronouncements. They’re showing a strong hand of decisive rhetorical bluster. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC on Sunday, on the subject of Syria’s Olympic delegation, that “as a government we have recently changed the rules about who we allow into this country and who we refuse entry to.
“If there is evidence that you have abused human rights and that is independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country. What I cannot do… sitting here is [provide] a list of the individuals to come, and are they coming as per the arrangements with the IOC.”, he said.
Syria, who have always claimed it is those pesky rebels who kill children, hit back.
Mowaffak Joma, chairman of the Syrian Olympic committee, told the BBC that “the authority of any host country is limited to organizing and offering all necessary facilities to all participating athletes.
“If the British government has decided to ban anyone connected to the regime and to President Bashar-al Assad, I am telling you in advance they should ban all Syrian citizens, because we all support President Assad and support Syria”, he said.
The Olympic movement has always struggled with political statements and with those who seek to use a sporting event to air their messages, whether legitimate or otherwise. From the Nazi swastikas of the German 1936 games, to the 1968 “Black Power” fist salutes in Mexico City, to the Munich Massacre in 1972, to the tit for tat boycotts of the Los Angeles and Moscow games, politics has always coursed close to the surface of Olympic veins.
Officially, the Olympic and Paralympic movements should be about sport, pure and simple. They are meant to celebrate the possibility of the human body, the drive of human ambition, and friendly competition. (Nevermind the drugs, the bribes, or the corporate sell offs, eh?)
Ever since the 1996 Atlanta Games – perhaps the zenith of Olympic capitalism run amok – host cities have tried desperately to break even through sponsorships, exclusive merchandising and rights deals. London is wall-to-wall marketing. Nauseating marketing. And that’s why Dow isn’t going anywhere from its space as manufacturer behind the Olympic stadium skin. The concerns of Bhopal survivors and campaigners don’t have any bearing on corporate Olympic choices.
However, the concerns of Syrian massacre survivors and campaigners have a bearing on the attendance of Olympic athletes?
It makes for a strange contrast. Britain wants to make the games about sport, while also politicising it. True, politics loves hypocrisy, but in the case of Syria, we are dealing with real lives at risk. The world has yet to act, or even come up with a successful proposed action, to protect civilians in Syria. Surely nobody really believed Syria was genuinely going to maintain a cease fire, did they? Children have died before in the country, so why the sudden Olympic threat? And children died in Bhopal, so do certain deaths matter more than others?
If Britain wants to come up with a solution for peace in Syria, then we are far past the time for hearing it. But banning anyone from entering the country timed to the Olympics will not only be pointless, but it will politicise the games even more than they’ve already been politicised through rampant commercialism.
There has to be a degree of equality when applying morals as a government, or at least some really good rhetorical bluster to explain why there isn’t.