Why I’ll be boycotting the Beijing Olympic games

WHEN China clinched the 2008 Olympics, it left many of those who disagreed with the decision clinging to the hope that it would somehow open China up to the outside world. In the past few weeks those hopes have begun to be realised, although this opening

WHEN China clinched the 2008 Olympics, it left many of those who disagreed with the decision clinging to the hope that it would somehow open China up to the outside world.

In the past few weeks those hopes have begun to be realised, although this opening up has not been a voluntary act by the Chinese government; they have tried, and failed, to suppress the reports coming out of Tibet.

The situation in the forgotten country has been put on your television screens and on the front pages of national newspaper like never before. It has revealed China as the bully it is.

It is a far cry from October 2007 when ahead of the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing the Chinese government forced journalists to put out official propaganda while its cyber-censors stalked the internet.


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In all, nearly 180 foreign press correspondents were arrested or harassed during the past year.

The source of this information is the international organisation Reporters without Borders (RWB), which was set up to fight against media censorship and defend members of the media imprisoned and persecuted across the globe.

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RWB's latest index of press freedom ranks China as the 163rd in the world for press freedom, in the middle of Vietnam and Burma (the United Kingdom, incidentally, is ranked 24th, just behind Lithuania).

China moving up in this particular table, which "reflects the degree of freedom that journalists and news organisations enjoy in each country and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom", is unlikely because of what I've already mentioned; the opening up is hardly being done voluntarily.

The RWB is calling on government heads to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but because China is too big an economic power Gordon Brown is unlikely to do that. We can bully Zimbabwe, but not China.

There is also the fact that we host the games in four years, and our government doesn't want to be left with egg on its face following the huge investment it (read: taxpayers) is making in the games.

Personally, I will not be watching televised coverage of the Olympics, either in China or in London.

The games are over-hyped, over-expensive and a shallow celebration of countries and cites which have more important deep-rooted problems which are often swept under the carpet as the gymnasts somersault overhead.

But although I am disgusted China has landed the Olympics, I, like those I've mentioned above, am happy the country is being prised open.

Long may it continue.

FOLLOWING Radiohead's decision last year to release their new album In Rainbows on the internet for fans to buy for as little or as much as they liked, other artists have realised the publicity potential of such ingenious plans.

In the last 10 days Madonna has announced she will be the first artist to release an album via mobile phones and the Raconteurs have said they will release their latest album to everyone at the same time, meaning that music journalists won't get the freebies first (which is a perk of the job).

Both have received plenty of column inches.

Personally, I prefer the Raconteurs approach but will it catch on, and what are the chances it'll appear online without the band's consent before it hits the shops?

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