Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Genoside Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games to be held later this year in Beijing seems to lurch from one controversy to the other. Recently it was the rumors of doctored air quality tests in and around Beijing that made news. Yesterday, word that Steven Spielberg was quitting as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Olympic Games made the rounds.

While doctoring air quality is reprehensible but fairly commonplace in the face of looming timelines, the reason for Spielberg’s quitting merits more attention. He is quitting because he wants to point out China's poor track record when it comes to aiding and abetting human rights abuses in Darfur. While Darfur registers dim glimmers of recognition in our country swept up by election fever, it is worth remembering that the conflict between the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed and the poorer non-Arab tribes in the south of Sudan has been raging for about 5 years now.

About 2.5 million people have been displaced and about 400,000 people killed as a result of the quasi-ethnic-cleansing systematically put in place with the Sudanese government. With America busy in a mess of its own making in the Middle East, the government of Sudan continues funding one of the largest genocides of modern times. Add to this the recent news from the Chadian capital N’djamena about Sudanese government trying to overthrow the Chadian government ostensibly to cut off supply lines to the Darfur rebels makes the case ever more pressing.

How do the Olympics fit into all this?

Well, the following facts point to the need for people to start calling these games the Genocide Olympics:

- China is Sudan's largest foreign trading investor (China has invested more than $400 million in the Darfur region alone)
- Sudan's biggest oil export destination is China (7 percent of China's imported oil comes from Sudan and China National Petroleum Corp. has a 40 percent share in the international consortium extracting oil in Sudan)
- China is Sudan's largest arms supplier (Chinese-made AK-47's have been the main weapons used to slaughter several hundred thousand people in Darfur)
- China is Sudan's chief diplomatic sponsor (active lobbying on its behalf at the United Nations to water down any and every resolution that seeks to condemn or reign in the Sudanese government).

The Olympics is supposed to be special celebration – one that is supposed to belong to all humanity – warts and all. The games are laced with stories of struggle and triumph over adversity. The Olympics has traditionally been touted as an event that portrays global unity amidst diversity. Using these Games as a backdrop, countries have been known to elevate their status around the world and hitch their wagons to lofty sounding sentiments like unified global vision and similar claptrap. Well, nothing of this sort happens to be behind the spirit of China pandering to Sudan as the facts above illustrate.

In retrospect, the simple fact remains that China has more power than any other nation on the earth (right now) to force the genocide in Darfur to come to a close.

Please start referring to the 2008 Olympics as what it is supposed to be - the Olympic games hosted by a country that directly and indirectly sponsors genoside, in other ways, a Genoside Olympics. Small steps go long ways.

Banksy, 'Ruined Landscape', 19” x 23”, oil and spray paint on canvas, 2007

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