Updated: The IOC on Athletes and Tibet: What ARE They Thinking?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Some folks out there may remember that I wrote a while back on the IOC’s decision to give the Olympic games to China, asking rhetorically, “What were they thinking?”

Right now, given the IOC’s desire to see the Bubblelympics continue free of any influences of the world outside the Olympic village, I’ve just gotta ask, “What are they thinking?”

The Times UK covers the recent “decision” of the IOC regarding whether or not athletes at the games can make any political statements. Calling displays of the Tibetan flag potential propaganda, the IOC stated that athletes could be banned for such displays.

Ah, yes, but how to handle that whole “freedom of speech” thing?

Follow me under the fold for the machinations…

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that competitors were free to express their political views but faced sanctions if they indulged in propaganda.


Addressing concerns about free speech, Mr Rogge described the scenario of a Spanish athlete doing a lap of honour in the Olympic stadium with Spain’s national flag and his provincial flag as “perfectly legitimate”.

He said: “We have had many examples of mixed flags where the athlete is proud of that. Is there a will to demonstrate propaganda or is it a desire to demonstrate joy in his victory?”

The IOC did not specify whether a Chinese athlete or a foreign competitor of Tibetan origin flying the Tibetan flag would be regarded as patriotic or propagandist. A spokeswoman said that there had been no discussion internally or with the Chinese authorities about use of the Tibetan national flag. Asked whether athletes would be allowed to hang the flag in their rooms, she said: “The village is an Olympic venue so it falls under the same rules and regulations of any venue which would mean that anything in there would be judged on whether it was a provocative propaganda initiative.”

link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…

So, you can’t display the Tibetan flag. But maybe you could be able to if you’re displaying the Tibetan flag to demonstrate the joy of your victory. Or maybe not. We haven’t talked with the Chinese yet.

Confused? So are most Olympic athletes. The Times UK says the British Athletes Commission is trying to get a tighter definition from the IOC of what constitutes “propaganda” in this context. They probably won’t be alone.

Now, leaving the mental gymnastics of this ruling aside for a second, let’s talk about propaganda. The American Heritage Dictionary has a pretty good definition of what propaganda is:

The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause

Is wearing a Save Darfur t-shirt, then, propaganda? Yes, probably. Is this propaganda:

I would say it is.

Ah, but that’s advertising, and corporate advertising isn’t political.

Or is it?

Part of corporate advertising is building a brand, making sure that people associate the company with positive, almost human characteristics.

Kind of like this ad from another sponsor of the 2008 Olympics, General Electric:

This ad sends the message to people that here’s a company that cares about family, and cares about the environment. We’re hip, we’re green, we’re multicultural.

Love us.

But again, is this political? I’d argue that GE has a far greater impact on the politics of the United States – and elsewhere – than a whole room full of Dalai Lamas (all respect to His Holiness aside, this is quite literally one simple monk versus a multi-billion dollar, multinational corporation with some definite thoughts on what needs to be done politically to make a buck).

From the Center for Public Integrity:

Not surprising given its size, GE spends considerably to advocate its interests. In 2001 and 2002, the company spent more than $31 million lobbying Congress, federal agencies and the Executive Office of the President on issues touching on virtually all aspects of its operations: defense appropriations, environmental cleanup, energy, science and technology, aviation, banking and finance, telecommunications, domestic and foreign trade, foreign relations and taxation. GE spread its lobbying business among many individual lobbyists and lobbying firms, both in-house and outside. It spent $16 million on overall lobbying in 2000, twice what it spent in 1999.

Okay, so they lobby. Well, everyone does that.

But there are hints that GE’s involvement in politics goes deeper than simply shoving money at politicians:

Former CEO Jack Welch was a George W. Bush supporter and a major Republican contributor. Two weeks before his inauguration, Bush invited Welch and other CEO’s (including Enron’s Ken Lay) to Texas for a summit. Bush reportedly considered Welch for a Cabinet position and, in the summer of 2001, sent members of his administration to lobby the European Union in support of GE’s proposed merger with Honeywell, which the EU ultimately rejected.

Throughout 2001, California Congressman Henry Waxman accused Welch of intervening in NBC’s 2000 election night coverage and pressuring the network to prematurely declare Bush the winner. Welch admitted he attended an election night party at NBC’s headquarters and that he cheered for Bush but denied interfering with coverage decisions. When the major network and cable news division heads were called before Congress in January 2001 to account for the election night debacle, the president of NBC News offered Waxman access to internal videotapes made of Welch on election night, only to withdraw the offer just days later.

And then there’s the question of how GE chooses to make its money. This is a company that has chosen to do defense contracting, and is enabling the execution of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Iraq contracts

GE’s reconstruction activities in Iraq were not disclosed in documents the Defense Department provided to the Center for Public Integrity in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Media sources, however, indicate that GE has or had post-war business dealings in Iraq. For instance, it was reported in April 2003 that GE Energy Rentals Inc., a division of GE Power Systems, was supplying temporary electrical generators to the U.S. military in Iraq. GE Energy Rentals, based in Atlanta, rents power generators, heating and cooling equipment and light towers. It was launched as a separate division in June 1999. The company refused to divulge the value of the contract.

Afghanistan contracts

The documents the Center received from the Defense Department revealed that GE was awarded a contract worth $5,927,870 from the U.S. Army Engineer District, Philadelphia, for “gas services.” News releases available on the Defense Department’s Web site, however, go into greater detail. For example, the contract is a firm-fixed-price contract awarded in February 2003 to GE Energy Rentals Inc. to provide prime power services at Bagram and Kandahar airbases. The contract is to be completed by Nov. 30, 2004. Seven bids were solicited for the contract in December 2002, and two bids were received.

link: http://www.publicintegrity.org…

But, in the world of Bubblelympics, athletes wearing track suits emblazoned with GE’s logo isn’t “propaganda”…but wearing an armband to show solidarity with Tibetan monks is.

Now, let’s review.

Acceptable propaganda:

Not acceptable propaganda:

Clear? Good.

Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.

UPDATE  The IOC is now stating that the torch relay will proceed through Tibet:

IOC president Jacques Rogge is adamant the Olympic torch will be paraded through Tibet as planned.


He said on Friday: “We have agreed to a route for the torch that goes through Tibet and this is the position confirmed by the International Olympic Committee.

“The great media attention that the torch brings is being used. It is not the symbolism of a united humanity that is being attacked, it is a fact that the protestors know that a lot of media will be watching.

“It is clear that it is the importance of the Olympic Games that attracts the events we are seeing now.

“I am quite sure that no-one is attacking the games but some are using them.”

link: http://ukpress.google.com/arti…

The article mentions that “participants would be allowed to stage their own protests as long as they did not break Chinese law.” However, as these are the same laws that led to the jailing of human rights activist Hu Jia, it still remains to be seen what this means in practice.

Meanwhile, other leaders and activists have decided to withdraw their participation in Bubblelympics:

Meanwhile, with pressure growing on US President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games, aides to UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he would not attend because of scheduling issues.

Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai also said she would pull out of the torch relay leg in Tanzania.

Maathai said she withdrew to give support to activists over many rights issues, including China’s crackdown on Tibetan unrest, which Tibet’s exiled leaders say has left more than 150 people dead.

“I have decided to show solidarity with other people on the issues of human rights in Sudan’s Darfur region, Tibet and Burma,” she told AFP.

link: http://afp.google.com/article/…

H/T to edgery, who provided a link to Students for a Free Tibet and their petition to encourage the IOC to stop the torch relay from proceding through Tibet. This situation remains fluid and I encourage folks follow this link and sign the petition: http://actionnetwork.org/campa…


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  1. Is performing in Beijing smog a career move?

  2. If they will have an “Olympics” under the New World Order government.

    Nations are gone.

    Diverse cultures are gone

    Religion is “universal”

    Which leaves only the beating of “dissidents” and punishment of “terrorists”, those who can’t stand the

    Brave New World.

    • edgery on April 11, 2008 at 20:32

    Make sure they understand that the world is watching how the Chinese government treats the Tibetan people.  Join with the Students for a Free Tibet by going here to send this message to the members of the IOC meeting in Beijing now.

    I join people of conscience around the world in calling on you to withdraw all Tibetan areas from the Olympic torch relay route. This global effort to stop the torch from going to Tibet is not in any way an attack on the Olympics, but is instead an effort to save Tibetan lives which is truly reflective of the Olympic values of ‘universal peace and global humanity.’

    The Governor of Tibet recently stated that “if anyone dares disrupt the Olympic torch relay they will be treated harshly and with no leniency.” As we have seen in the past month, Tibetans are committed to speaking out for their freedom at this critical time. Therefore, taking the Olympic torch to Tibet is a serious provocation that will lead to certain bloodshed and further repression.

    If you allow the Olympic torch to be taken to Tibet the global community will hold you personally responsible for the actions of the Chinese authorities.

    You have the power to stop this from happening. Please do the right thing now and immediately withdraw all Tibetan areas from the torch relay route.

  3. if the Olympics hadn’t been given to the Chinese, and if the Chinese hadn’t continued their maltreatment of occupied Tibet, most of the world that is now outraged still wouldn’t have a clue about what’s been going on there for the last 50 years.

    Not saying the current repression is good, mind you, but some good may be coming of the protests within Tibet and Sichuan. A few years back, the only way you could get any press coverage at all regarding things like the cultural genocide in Tibet would be a day or so of flurry-stories when HHDL came to DC or London and was formally welcomed.

    This whole episode may be waking up a lot of people. At leat I hope it is.  

    • Zwoof on April 13, 2008 at 15:49

    Dalai Lama plans Tibet crisis remarks Sunday

    Until now, he has avoided issue at Seattle conference on compassion

    h/t  to mishima

    I have a feeling he has reflected on this and has found the answer. Wishful thinking maybe.

    Prediction: he will distance himself from activist groups that  have more radical views than his. (Independence and violent confrontational protests)

    This from a radical activist that is not happy with HHDL’s voice of moderation.

    Don’t Stop the Revolution! – Jamyang Norbu

    Phayul[Saturday, April 05, 2008 03:23]


    Norbus was the founder of the Tibet Youth Congress.

    On March 17th, the Dalai Lama summoned the leaders of the five organizations that had united to create the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement and organized the various demonstrations in India and throughout the world, and also organized the peace march to Tibet. The Dalai Lama ordered them to halt their march to Tibet. Not only were the organizers forced to stop their long-planned March to Tibet, but His Holiness’s command seems to have caused the unfortunate breakup of this dynamic alliance.

    Norbus is angry because HHDL and Prime Minister Samdhong Rimpoche have been trying to unify the activist groups by creating a special “Solidarity Committee” to take over the various independent campaigns and activities taking place around the world.

    Prime Minister Samdhong Rimpoche also got in the “divide and conquer” business with a speech he gave on the 20thof March, or thereabouts. I heard an excerpt on Radio Free Asia on the 25th,Tuesday. He offered lavish praise on the efforts of the protesters in Tibet. But then strangely he began to criticize those protesters and activists in India and the West. He asked, somewhat sarcastically, whether these people thought that they could achieve beyond what the Dalai Lama had done? He directed his criticism particularly at the Tibetan Youth Congress.

    examples of the Solidarity Committee’s requests to the radical activists.

    ….Circulars have been sent from Dharamshala to NGO’s and support groups instructing them to stop using the term “FREE TIBET”.

    ….The Solidarity Committee representative gave a lengthy and roundabout speech where he called on Tibetans not to shout slogans demanding Independence for Tibet, and a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Much to the annoyance of the crowd he also told protesters not to display a large banner they were carrying which read “China Out of Tibet”.

    ….On 31st March Tibetans from Washington DC, New York, Boston, Charlottesville and Philadelphia gathered at the American capital for a rally. Staff members of the International Campaign for Tibet, ICT, (most probably on instructions from the Solidarity Committee) tried to remove a large banner proclaiming “Independence For Tibet” which was hanging on the stage and other banners and placards and banners reading “Boycott Beijing Olympics” and “Boycott Genocide Olympics.” An unfortunate dispute broke out between the protesters and the ICT staff..

    The radical activist hints that HHDL and the calmer heads in the Exile Government are appeasing the Chinese as both the DL and Beijing  want to “stop the whole thing”, going so far as to call for H.H. Dalai Lama and his Prime Minister to STFU

    I don’t think the exile government is attempting some kind of power grab, as one observer suggested to me. It is more likely that Dharamshala wants to take charge of the movement to water it down. Limit it to candle-light vigils, circulating petitions, wearing black arm-bands and so on, actions which they hope Beijing would not consider provocative, and which would eventually tire and bore all the protesters and activists and get them to go home. That much seems evident. Dharamshala just wants to stop the whole thing. Check out the Solidarity Committee website: StopTibetCrisis.net. I don’t think anyone could put it more clearly. And that is what Beijing, in its own more brutal fashion, is attempting to do — stop the Tibet crisis.

    Dharamshala’s hope, of course, is that if the crisis is stopped it could go back trying to negotiate with Beijing. In spite of all that has happened in Tibet our leaders completely fail to see that this will never happen. It is far too late for anyone, even Beijing, to stop this revolution. Samdhong Rimpoche and his Solidarity Committee can no more stop it than they can stop a tsunami by standing before it. To my leaders in the exile government (which will always be for me the true government of Tibet) I say this with due respect but also with genuine concern: Step out of the way.emphasis his

    I don’t think the Dahlai Lama and Rimpoche will “Step out of the way”, but will come out strongly against these splinter groups.

    What will be interesting if this happens, is the response from the violent faction of the movement (yes, they are there).  Will they openly go up against the true Government in Exile and most of the beliefs of  Buddhism?

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