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China no medalist as Olympic host

The Olympic Games have a heady reputation, hundreds of years old and, at this point, representing nearly every country on Earth.
It’s a status symbol for a nation to have an athlete earn a gold, silver or bronze medal, and it’s a symbol of goodwill and peace to compete in the games with athletes from other countries.
All of that sounds nice and pretty, but it’s a little hard to swallow considering this year’s Olympics are being held in Beijing, China, which has, to say the least, a bad reputation.
First, China is a Communist country that is pretty much a dictatorship, and the full extent of Chinese control can already be seen in the whims of the government. Joey Cheek, for example, a 2006 Olympian, was denied a Visa to enter China, probably because of his participation in speaking out against the atrocities in Darfur and the support the Chinese government has shown the Sudanese in selling them weapons to fuel their conflict. It was at the very last minute the Chinese government told Cheek he and another member of Team Darfur would not be allowed in the country, and that they did not have to provide a sufficient reason, so, deal with it.
This is the kind of country that encompasses all the things the Olympics represent?
What’s worse, China has nearly everyone from other countries, but particularly the United States, under its thumb. The economy in China has been a rocket boom of success, growing exponentially. There is simply no way around doing business with the Chinese, on all sorts of levels. They are now a global player like at no other point in China’s history, yet they seem to be oblivious to how they’re acting. Unbelievable traffic crunches (caused partially by government subsidies to lower gas prices for the citizens of China) had brought on horrific smog, some days topping out the maximum scale for safe air quality. Doesn’t a place with terrible air quality seem like the perfect place to hold an athletic competition, anyway? In fact, smog was a big issue Friday during the opening ceremonies, reducing visibility around the Olympic Village. But, when China was given the opportunity to host the games back in 2001, its officials were adamant their skies would be clear and smog-free. Too bad some athletes were forced to sign waivers, freeing anyone of responsibility from death or injury.
I know the argument for having the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 was so there would be a bright light shining on China to gently encourage ‘ or specifically force ‘ China to look over the social, economic and environmental policies that are, quite frankly, an embarrassment for the country. Having the Olympics there could spur the change the country so desperately needs.
But why would Hu Jintao, president of the People’s Republic of China, give up so easily? He’s made China a global superpower all while washing his hands of things like human rights and political discretion. And who has stopped him?
Plus, we’ve seen now, it’s just not working. The Olympics hasn’t brought on the change the country needed. Instead, thousands of Chinese were put out of work; factories were shut down to try to clear the smog and farmers were disallowed water so it could be saved for the country’s esteemed guests.
I want to be proud of these 2008 Olympics. I want whatever medals we bring home in 2008 to be untarnished by the host country. But, my worry is that these Olympics will leave a legacy of humiliation for future generations who may look back and wonder how we could have ever given support to a country with such foolish and irresponsible policies and practices.

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