Monday, April 14, 2008

King of the Mountain?

I first became aware of the protests regarding the Olympics when I read a story a few months ago regarding the limited access and closure of Mt. Everest from March until June. It hit a cord not only with the Tibet tourism industry, but also with the mountaineering community. It has now become a quest of who will be the King of the mountain - rippling in its wake hundreds of thousands of people in protest and complicating matters between Eastern and Western views of human rights, media awareness and political agendas as the torch continues its relay throughout the world.

We don't have cable - so most of my awareness on the unrest regarding this subject has come streaming through my computer. I saw Jennie Reed this past weekend and asked her what she thought about the protests, etc and she said she didn't know enough about the situation to have an educated opinion of what's going on. Funny, neither did I. This morning I woke up on a mission - time to put my hours of Internet scouring to use - and see if I could read about some pieces to the puzzle.

A human rights issue....
In an article posted on March 15, 2008 from MSNBC:
"The unrest in Tibet began last Monday on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of the region. Tibet was effectively independent for decades before communist troops entered in 1950.

The protests initially were led by Buddhist monks demanding the release of other detained monks. Their demands spiraled to include cries for Tibet's independence and turned violent when police tried to stop a group of protesting monks. Pent-up grievances against Chinese rule came to the fore, as Tibetans directed their anger against Chinese and their shops, hotels and other businesses."

I've been watching lots of CNN video coverage regarding the protests to the torch relays in Paris and London. Apparently the Chinese media is blacking out all Western views of the protests and even going so far as saying "Warm reception had in cold London." Why would they deny what's happening around the world?

The torch relayed through Oman today, a Middle Eastern country and did not receive the loud protests the Western Countries have. However, "Oman, a Muslim country at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula with a booming tourism industry, has strong economic ties with China, which is a major importer of its oil." (Taken from CNN.com/World) Not to mention their ground forces were ready for any sort of strife.

The Olympic ceremony has brought together groups who normally wouldn't see eye to eye. "As the Olympic torch makes its way westward through London, Paris and San Francisco on its way to Beijing, it has been attracting well-financed, organized protests representing various single-issue groups that normally do not even work together.

Among these groups are various factions of the Free Tibet movement, the groups against genocide in Darfur, global warming, Burma's military dictatorship, job loss in the U.S., and such diverse groups as the Falun Gong and Taiwan independence activists." (CNN.com)

Uh oh. I think I just opened a can of worms.

"Activists demonstrating against China's human rights record and a recent crackdown in Tibet have been protesting along the torch route since the start of the flame's 85,000-mile (140,000-kilometer) journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing.

The Summer Olympics kick off in the Chinese capital on Aug. 8.

The torch's global tour -- the longest in Olympic history -- is part of China's drive to highlight its growing economic and political power. But it also has offered protest groups abundant opportunity to air their grievances." (Associated Press; April 7, 2008)

So how do you make sense of all of this as an athlete going into the Olympics? I suppose it's where your from. I'm sure most of the competitors are so narrowly focused on their quest for the ultimate championship - an Olympic gold medal - that they may not know what's happening. But what if the Olympics are sabotaged by terrorism?

"Islamic terrorists planned to attack Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese locations with poisonous gas and explosives to sabotage the Summer Olympic Games, China announced on Thursday...The raids in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, also netted about 21 pounds (9.5 kg) of explosives, eight detonators, two explosive devices, and some propaganda materials for "holy war."" (CNN.com)

It sounds to me like this could snowball into what could be a vicious and "at all costs" summit to be deemed the King of the Mountain.

3 comments:

joshm said...

I don't have a huge amount of knowledge myself..but I did find this link funny/scary/ironic:

http://graphics.jsonline.com/graphics/photographer/20/20534_large.jpg

jillita said...

This is a topic very dear to me so I have a few things to comment about:

1) That quote from MSNBC "Tibet was effectively independent for decades..." is incorrect and misleading. Tibet had been independent, often considered its own "empire" since back in the 7th century until the 1950s when Mao Zedong's communists troops invaded and slaughtered millions of Tibetans and destroyed thousands of Buddhist temples in an effort to crush the Tibetan culture. Since they really had no military and were mostly isolated from the western world (except for 50 or so years of diplomacy with the British who were occupying neighboring India) there was no cause to help the Tibetan people from this invasion. It would be on par with the early American settlers and military wiping out the Native American culture. The difference is that China now has the opportunity to give Tibet back to its people and spiritual leaders, hence many western countries and protesters are using this opportunity to influence China.

2) I think that athletes going into the Olympics should be somewhat informed about their host country. The Olympics are no longer about "sport," they're all about politics and economic power. Hilter himself instititued the torch relay in 1936 just before WWII and the parallels between his regime and China's are well known and well founded. Fortunately some athletes are taking it upon themselves to make a statement, albeit tactful and professional, to help those oppressed by China. Team Darfur has been getting a lot of press about their efforts. I'm glad to see that these athletes can use their platform to bring attention to such causes while not compromising their gold medal dreams.

I hope that everyone educates themselves about why these Games are so controversial. There is a lot of suffering behind their "glory". Thanks for listening. I'll shut up now. :)

Juicey said...

That is fascinating Jill - thank you for sharing. I knew my view and understanding would be jaded ... so it's nice to hear other views to hopefully get to the bottom of it.

Great article on the athletes and Team Darfur. It really makes you think...