The Olympic torch will be lit this coming Monday, beginning a journey that will take it to the world's highest height, Mount Everest, and China's most embarrassing low, Tibet.
[As seen in deadspin.com]
Disregarding public outcry internationally and within the borders of Tibet, the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee reaffirmed its plans to carry the Olympic torch through Lhasa.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, organizing committee executive V.P. Jiang Xiaoyu told reporters that public concerns over possible Olympic violence was uncalled for and that the region had, In his words, "basically been stabilized." The so-called "Journey of Harmony", the name given by the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, is scheduled to pass through 135 cities on it's way to the Chinese capital for the start of the Games August 8.
Recently, dissatisfaction with Beijing's hosting of the games has taken more visible forms in the voices of some well-known figures. Already Steven Spielberg, who was to act as artistic adviser to the opening ceremonies, quit amid continuing Chinese involvement in the form of arms sales to the country of Sudan in their conflict in Darfur. China is Sudan's number one customer in the export of crude oil.
Great Britain's Prince Charles has announced that he will not be attending the ceremony in support of the Dalai Lama. On Wednesday the chief of the Communist Party in Tibet, Zhang Qingli had this to say about the spiritual leader of Tibet:
"[he is] a jackal in Buddhist monk's robes, an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast."
Further clarifying his position during a teleconference with members of Tibet's government an leaders of their Communist Party, Zhang continued:
"...we are engaged in a fierce battle of blood and fire with the Dalai clique."
Already, China's air quality has come under serious scrutiny, with many athletes questioning if Beijing's claim that air quality will be safe to compete in this Summer. Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, the fastest marathoner in history, has already said he will not compete in that event at the games. The Chief Medical Officer for the International Olympic Committee, Arne Ljungqvist, said that therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for asthma inhalers will be granted to athletes in far greater numbers should air quality not improve in time for the games.
To underscore the growing snowball of bad will rolling downhill toward Beijing, Andrew Leonard, writing in Salon.com said, "as a public relations exercise, so far, the Olympics are turning into a disaster."
Just last Friday, 5 girls burned to death while hiding in a clothing store in Lhasa. Rioting is the norm in the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama. Yet in the days since the clothing store deaths, even more rioting - international rioting - is fast becoming a real threat to the "Journey of Harmony".
Today in London, the possibility of disruption by anti-China protesters became front-page news as the announcement of the deployment of 2,000 Metropolitan Police officers, marine and air support, plus mounted police along the torch's route to the town of Greenwich.
With less than 5 months until the games of the 29th Olympiad, so far the focus of the world is on anything but athletics. And what happens during the two weeks of the Games may only play a small part in determining the Games' future.
Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday