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Debate: Boycott of 2008 Olympics in China

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(Should countries boycott the 2008 Olympics in China due to human rights concerns there?)
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-The Olympics are meant to be the pinacle of sporting and a sacred set of games that athletes strive to compete in from the time they realize their true talent. When a country boycotts the games the only people they are hurting is their athletes that have worked very hard their whole lives for possibly their only shot at competeing against the greatest from all over the world. When a country decides to boycott, it is usually because that country disagrees with how the host nation is dealing with a certain political issue. I don't care what country it is, whether it be the U.S. or Sri Lanka, by a country not sending their athletes in, it is not going to change the views of that nation. We, in America, can voice our opinions as much as we want and try to get China to change their concepts of dealing with Tibet and Darfur, but by penalizing our athletes and not going to the games, we would only be hurting our countrymen and women who want to go over there and represent our nation and bring back the gold. 
===Background and Context of Debate:=== ===Background and Context of Debate:===

Revision as of 17:39, 15 April 2008

Should countries boycott the 2008 Olympics in China due to human rights concerns there?


Background and Context of Debate:

Since China received in 2001 the honor to host the 2008 summer Olympics, one of the primary questions was whether it would be able to improve its human rights record to a level deemed appropriate by the international community for the purposes of hosting such an international event. Many believe that, as of 2007, it had failed to do so. In protest, many suggest that the most powerful tool that a country can level against China's alleged abuses, is a boycott of the 2008 Olympics. China, desiring very much to see its 2008 Olympics become a success, is fearful of such moves, and defensive against threats that move in this direction.

Human rights: Has China failed to improve its human rights and is a boycott the right response?


  • Repression in China has only gotten worse - Numerous reports indicate that China's promises to improve its human rights record for the Olympics have not been met. Prominent non-governmental organizations such as the Human Rights Watch even state that the situation has worsened, hidden from the public eye. Many of China's agreements with the International Olympics Committee have been breached, and abuse, executions, and other likewise actions are far from over.
  • Only boycotting the Olympics sufficiently protests China's abuses In regards to sending a powerful message to the Chinese government that they need to improve their human rights record, there are few other tools at a country's disposal than boycotting the Olympics. The United States has passed resolutions that condemn the Chinese human rights abuses, but this has no real international impact on the Chinese. Neither will protests at the games themselves send a sufficiently powerful message. Only a boycott will send this message sufficiently.
  • China is taking too much away from the poor for the Olympics China has spent billions of dollars on the Olympics. This is while China's poor suffer from extreme poverty and illiteracy due to a poor educational system. While this is not grounds for a boycott, it may highlight the extent to which China disregards its poor.


  • China's 2008 Olympics will accelerate its civil society Susan Brownell, a Fulbright Scholar studying the effects of the Olympics on China, and who wrote Beijing's Games: What the Olympics Mean to China (2008), said the international event will speed up the "formation of a civil society in urban China by perhaps as much as 5-10 years."[1] Therefore, even if China's civil, democratic institutions and practices are not good currently, the Olympics is likely to help advance them into the future.
  • A boycott of the 2008 Olympics would antagonize the Chinese people - The Chinese people are very excited about the Olympics in their country. To boycott the event would send a strongly negative and antagonizing signal to them. Feelings of alienation would last for years that could have negative consequences in China's relations with the world. And yet there is no reason to believe that China's anger at a boycott could be translated into any positive impacts on the policies of the Chinese government.

Politicizing Olympics: Is it acceptable to politicize the Olympics with boycotts?


  • The Olympics have always been politicized While it is easy to say that sports and politics should exist separately, particularly in the context of the Olympics, the reality is that the Olympics have always been politicized. The 1972, 1968 and 1936 Olympics were all politicized in a significant way. Even in the 2004 summer Olympics in Greece, President Bush used it as an opportunity to argue that the War on Terror had made it possible for Afghani and Iraqi athletes to compete. So, while it may sound appropriate to claim that the Olympics should not be politicized, the reality is that it always has been, and that there continues to be a legitimate place for it to express national and international interests.
  • Politicizing and boycotting Beijing is necessary to uphold the Olympic spirit The Olympic Charter states that "The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man,with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity." Thus, as China is disrupting the "harmonious development" of several countries, clearly is not concerned with the preservation of human dignity as can be seen from the continuous human rights violations, politicizing the Olympics by taking a stand and boycotting China is now the only way to truly uphold the goal of the Olympics.


  • The Olympic games should not be politicized Even if China is not abiding by human rights standards, this should not be a factor in whether or not the Olympic games should be held there and/or whether states should attend. The Olympic games have historically been a non-political arena of sports. Attendance should not be seen in the political context, but merely in the context of national athletes competing in sports. If politics are allowed to enter as criteria in hosting and attending the games, many unfortunate demands or conditions could be made by states. The games would become part of the politicized, geopolitical context.
  • Boycotting China will be against the spirit of the Olympics The Olympic Charter clearly states that one of the missions of the Olympics is to "oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes". Boycotting China will go against this, as the athletes will lose one of their very few chances to compete in the Olympics, something they have worked towards for years, and taking away this well-deserved chance because of political discrepancies will fall under the "political abuse" of sports and athletes.

Historically: Have Olympic boycotts been effective/desirable in historically?


  • The 2008 Olympics in China are analogous to the 1936 Olympics in Germany - Both Nazi Germany and Chinese governments can be described as oppressive regimes, and yet both will have been allowed to host the Olympic games despite their human rights abuses and illeberal governments. The world should learn from the lessons of Nazi Germany and boycott the Chinese olympics in 2008.


  • Olympic boycotts have achieved nothing historically U.S. Olympic Committee Chiarman spokesman Darryl Seibel said, in reference to Olympic boycotts staged in 1956, 1976, 1980 and 1984, that, "as has been demonstrated in the past, boycotts accomplish absolutely nothing other than to unfairly penalize athletes who have spent decades preparing for that moment."[2]

Darfur: Would a boycott positively influence China's position on Darfur?


  • Boycotting the Olympics will bring China to respond to the Darfur crisis - Above anything, China responds to targets to its image. When actress Mia Farrow widely publicized her attack on China's inaction regarding the Darfur crisis, China responded, the first time to do so. China will now respond to such public and open criticism, and boycotting the Olympics will be one of the greatest forms of publicized criticism available to the international community.


  • China has played a positive role in Darfur China, despite common caricatures, has played a largely constructive role in the Darfur crisis. Due to pressure from the Chinese, Sudan accepted in principle the peace plan over the Darfur issue put forward by former U.N chief Kofi Annan.

Burma: Should China's response to the Burma crisis be cause for a boycott?


  • China's unwillingness influence Burma's crisis justifies an Olympic Boycott Burma's atrocities against its Buddhists in 2007 were significant. It is the role of international, geopolitical leaders - such as China - to use whatever reasonable measures are handy to positively affect the behavior of misbehaving states. China is fully capable of doing this, and yet it chose not to. Edward McMillan-Scott, vice president of the European Parliament said to Reuters in September, 2007, "The consensus around the European Parliament is that China is the key. China is the puppet master of Burma. The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilized world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable."[3]


  • China did not intervene in Burma's 2007 crisis due to its non-interventionism China is not responsible for taking action against Burma. China has a foreign policy not to interfere in other countries' affairs. It's inaction during the Burma crisis of 2007, therefore, is consistent with this policy, which is generally an acceptable international principle, with many nations choosing to adopt neutral or reserved foreign policies. While Americans may adopt a more moralistically interventionist stance, obviously this has led to many consequences in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Panama, and in many other countries around the world. The case can certainly be made that a non-interventionist policy is ideal.
  • China has very limited leverage over the Burmese junta. China is not Burma’s biggest trading partner, meaning that China has very few levers to pull, if they chose to, to affect Burma's internal affairs.
  • Having the 2008 Olympics in China will improve world peace The Olympics have generally been an event that demonstrates the commonalities among nations and that creates a broader desire for world peace. Given China's significance geopolitically, having the Olympics there can only serve to magnify the beneficial role of the Olympics in stimulating world peace.

Pro/con resources



Videos: Pro and Con Video Resources


  • Human Rights Torch [4]
  • Boycott Beijing Olympics [5]



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