Changing China

Giant on the move

Bush heads to Beijing for Olympics opening ceremony — your views

August 5, 2008

U.S President George W. Bush is on his way to Beijing to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, much to the pleasure of the Chinese government, but not everyone believes he and other heads of government should be here.

Some politicians and human rights groups urged Bush to boycott the opening ceremony in protest at China’s crackdown in Tibet, and what they see as the lack of progress on broadening domestic freedoms. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also taken a lot of heat for his decision to attend the opening of the Olympics as holder of the EU presidency.

Although by no means everyone agreed, I think a broad consensus emerged earlier this year, certainly among athletes, that large-scale boycotts of the Olympics, as we saw at the Moscow and Los Angeles Games, are both ineffective politically and unfair to those who have worked so hard for the right to participate.

But what about the idea of political leaders boycotting the opening ceremony, as some have suggested?

Bush, a huge sports fan, says that staying away would make it more difficult to raise human rights issues when he meets President Hu Jintao. His critics say his presence is just a PR coup for the Chinese leadership.

After a meeting at the White House in July this year, President Hu said he he welcomed his counterpart’s coming visit to the Opening Ceremony, adding: ”I highly appreciated that President Bush has on various occasions expressed his opposition to politicising the Olympic Games.”

Do you think he, and other world leaders should be there? Is there a big fat line between sports and politics, as the IOC suggests? Give us your thoughts in the comments.


There is a line between sport and politics but it is a blurred one. Boycotting sporting events is an effective way of demonstrating to the people of that nation that their politicians should be held to account for their actions.

At this stage, though, it’s pointless for political leaders to boycott an opening ceremony of an event to which they are happy to send their national heroes and hopefuls. The IOC should have demanded improvements in China before awarding them the games, rather than giving them the games along with a couple of ‘play nice’ lectures.

Besides, I’m taking heart from the fact that Bush knows how to get to China. And in a few months time he can pack his passport back up to the attic where he probably thinks it belongs.

Posted by Beth | Report as abusive

That’s an interesting point, Beth: don’t send your athletes, and citizens, anywhere you wouldn’t go yourself (for whatever reason).

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

I am a banker working now on Wall Street. As a student on the Tian An Meng Square in 1989, I left china after the tanks crushed the students demonstration. My eyes got wet and my heart shrank whenever I thought of the event even almost 20 years have passed.

I am pretty much disappointed with the role Human Rights play when the few Tibetans attacked innocent people in Tibet a few months ago. Looks to me that the Human Rights groups would propose any behavior (even ruthless attack again innocent people) as long as the attacks are flagged as against China and Communist government.


China can care less if Bush, Brown and Co. stay away from the opening ceremony becaouse the Chinese will have a blast no matter what. Moreover, China has allies in Asia, Africa and South America that will support them. The world doesn’t revolve around NA and Europe.

Posted by Ryan | Report as abusive

I don’t believe that anything Bush does, or for that matter any other 1st/2nd world leader, isn’t linked to a wider agenda. I don’t know what Bush’s itinerary is when in China but you can bet your bottom dollar that there will meetings that try to further America’s economic position. He will almost certainly be pressing flesh with various Chinese politicians and businessmen and deals will be done as a result.

America would only ever boycott an event like the Olympics if it was advantageous and politically expedient for them to do so; they would never do it for virtuous reasons alone. There’s too much big business to be done and too much money to made from China in the future to risk upsetting them now.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (Redirected from Olympics).

1 “The number of competitors at the Winter Olympics is much smaller than at the Summer Games; at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin Italy, 2,633 athletes from 80 countries competed in 84 events.”

2 “The Olympic Games are one of the world’s largest media events. In Sydney in 2000, there were over 16,000 broadcasters and journalists, and an estimated 3.8 billion viewers watched the games on television.”

Conclusion: It is clearly both a venue of great interest, perhaps a goal:

1 of athletes the world over to show, prove, and exhibit their abilities as athletes.

2 of countries the world over (who can afford it), to show, prove and exhibit their abilities as a society.

“Society”, also from Wikipedia. “A Society is a grouping of individuals characterized by patterns of relationships between these individuals that may have distinctive culture and institutions, or, more broadly, an economic, social and industrial infrastructure in which a varied multitude of people or peoples are a part. Members of a society may be from different ethnic groups.”

I’m sure President Bush’s attendance is acknowledging China as a society of great potential and value to the interest and welfare of the United States.

Like our own diverse society, China and the US are 2 nations that make up a diverse global society.

We must all un-learn mistakes, and learn and re-learn policy and foundational values the result in economic prosperity, health and happiness for all as we strive always to obtain such ideals, peacefully, on this small planet.

I’m sure our leader in his wisdom, goes as a peacemaker, not remembering wrongs, not there to cite mistakes. I’m sure he has his sights on a history and a vision of long suffering, as generation after generation takes up the banner of reconcilation. Like the athlete, he is there to pass the baton to the next generation, having showed, proved and exhibited his own abilities as an athlete in his own right, having gone the distance, fought the good fight. He is saying goodbye and passing the baton of peace. It is my hope today and always in my leader, the President of the United States of America, the leader of a free world society struggling to be fully realized every waking day.

Enjoy the moment, Mr. President. God through you, will leave us with 45 seconds of words, like Abraham Lincoln once did, that will color the world beautiful, forever. Don’t worry, it’s his work. Your just the messenger.

~ Nathan

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

There is NO LINE between politics and sports. Many countries have used the Olympics to push their country and ideals from Germany to Russia to the US, all host countries do it. I guess after this spectacle it will become fashionable to be “Chinese”.

I personally think everyone should boycott the Walmart funded Chinese Communist Games but I really don’t expect Bush to do anything different than he has for the past 8 years. He will go to China and suck up to the Chinese as he has always done… money, money, money… damn everything else, nothing else registers with the man.

And to the poster who thinks God is talking through Bush, well, if God is talking through Bush then surely its the end of the world. Thank God Obama is going to be our next President.

Posted by BushGuiltyAsSin | Report as abusive

Go President Bush! Thank you for showing your support for our athletes rather than kowtowing to pressure from our righteous media. You the man! Glad I voted for him twice.

God bless America if Obama’s elected, a man with no principles and only says what the polls tell him to say. Nice job acting like he’s already elected by the way, addressing large crowds in Europe as if he’s representing us. What a turn off!

Posted by Bush | Report as abusive

I don’t care where Bush goes. And the whole current US election show is just that – a show. You want to pay attention to it ? go for it. Those of you who know better, keep on storing food and buying gold. Paulson/Bernanke and Co. have plans for you. You may not like them. Good Luck.

Posted by Grandpa | Report as abusive

There was an interesting line in the story from Reuters White House corrospondent Matt Spetalnick:
“In contrast to often dismal diplomacy in other areas, Bush’s handling of China, after a rough start, has had some sense of nuance and statecraft,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a China expert at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. “The challenge now is to keep things on track.”
I don’t think the fact that he is coming is really a surprise.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Firstly, I think that most of the world cares wether Bush attends the opening of the Olympics, since he lost most of the world’s respect and no one sees him as representing the citizens of the United States. The only difference his attendance would make is that it gives other ‘leaders’ the excuse and follow his lead, such as France’s Sarkozy.

As to the separation between the games and politics, the intended message in leaders not attending the ceremonies even while the athletes of their countries compete is: ‘Even though we find China’s behaviour towards human rights unacceptable, we recognize the noble goal of the olympic games of promoting communication and understanding by finding common ground in the love of sports and recognition of athletes from all around the world, and so see no reason to prevent our own athletes from competing, representing their nation in the said goal.’ . It is also a matter of prestige, as the IOC is a supposedly independent globally recognized body and no nation wants to miss the chance of flexing its own athletic muscle in front of other nations.

While I am sympathetic to the IOC’s ideals in the separation between politics and this event, it is sadly unrealistic. The China government is doing everything in its power to turn the games into a giant PR campaign to its advantage, while other nations and western backed human rights organs and special interest groups -such as those supporting the cause of Tibet- are manipulating the game attendance issue to further their own agenda. It is unfortunate human nature to try and take advantage of such idealistic institutions whatever the cause, so while I can understand the concept that the olympics should be politics-free, the question as to wether they should be or not is rhetorical as it is sadly not possible.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

CORRECTION: I meant to say ‘I think that most of the world cares NOT wether Bush attends the opening of the Olympics’

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

While I personally like the idea of a boycott of national leaders of the opening ceremonies (it send a message without punishing the athletes), there is clearly not international consensus on this. That said, I think it’s important to point out a critical fact that has been often overlooked in this debate: up until this point, no sitting U.S. President has attended an Olympic games on foreign soil.

Bush himself did not attend either the games in Athens in 2004, nor Torino in 2006. The question then becomes given this particular tradition, why does he insist on attending the games in Beijing? What’s so different now?

Posted by JS | Report as abusive

Out of curious: If the human rights problem in China is as bad as what has been always imposed on ppl by the media, why the Chinese public, who are supposed to be the victims of the “Olympics crackdown” are so furious about the boycotting for human rights violation thing? Is it that the media has been bashing the wrong target?

Don’t know what difference a boycot can make. The result is only: Chinese no longer believe in the Western media, Chinese love their gov ever than more since 89, Chinese are suspecting any human rights criticism as bearing vicious political intention.

Peace, improvements and understanding cannot be achieved by boycotting. Don’t know why many ppl don’t see this point.

There will be 205 countries participating in the Beijing Games. More than ever in Olympics’ history. You can explain otherwise, but one reason is China has been much politically neutural and win the support of many countries in addition to EU and the US. Remember that the world does not consist solely of those countries that are shouting about boycotting.

I am happy that Iraq’s atheletes will be able to participate in the Games, but I don’t care whether Bush will attend the openings. Anyone wants to boycott, go do it – Nobody really cares.

Posted by Lesley | Report as abusive

Beijing certainly put on the most spectacular show I have ever seen. I was absolutly awestruck. Unfortunatley the image projected by the leader of the most powerful nation in the world was embarrasing. President Bush appeared bored and uninterested in the festivities. I was especially embarrased by the shot of him slouched in his seat bouncing the American flag on his knee. I would think he would have wanted to appear more dignified. Instead he looked more like a backwards hillbilly who would have rather been at a kegger sucking on a rib bone. This is just one more of many embarrasing displays of his character.

Posted by BarbaraS | Report as abusive

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