About this time every year, a few months before the Summer Olympics begin, there is often a certain amount of anxiety. Usually, it relates to whether all the facilities will be constructed in time for the sappy opening ceremonies. And usually, everything comes together, and fellowship and brotherhood once again reign on earth.
It ain't gonna be that pat this time.
Oh, there's no problem with the construction in Beijing, but there is simply no assurance that the twin issues of pollution and human rights will be improved a whit by August 8. It isn't, either, that these problems have snuck up on the International Olympic Committee. Pollution and human rights were foremost in the conversation way back in 1993, when the IOC came within a hair's breath of awarding the 2000 Games to Beijing. Sydney got the nod then, but the two bugaboos were no less front and center in 2001, when, verily, the Olympic voters blessed Beijing with these Games.
Of course, in many respects the IOC and China are good bedfellows. They both like to see things get done -- never mind the niceties. They both enjoy nothing better than mass pomp and circumstance. And they both would rather keep unpleasantries under wraps.
Besides, once Beijing was awarded the Olympics, the IOC lost moral suasion. It could no more take back the Games than can the United Nations stop China from providing subsidies to the Sudanese government, which helps to enable the carnage in Darfur. The actress
Rogge, doing his best King Canute imitation, assures us that the pollution will miraculously roll back because the Chinese "are not going to let down the world." More cynically, Rogge is surely counting on the reality that once the fun and Games begin, politics are always pretty much forgotten. The inability to breathe, however, is something that does tend to remain in the consciousness, and if visitors are gagging, they may not swallow the political abuses either.
The Chinese so wanted the Olympics as a way to show off their new power and prosperity. Wouldn't it be ironic if, instead, the negative got accented, and even a little bit of the world's venom was directed away from the United States and toward China? Well, at least for a couple of weeks ...