The Olympic Torch is making its way over approximately 84 000 miles to China in time for the 2008 Games in Beijing. The torch is meant to symbolise unity, friendship and peace. When China were awarded the Olympics there were eyebrows raised throughout the world. Why were China, who do not allow there citizens a vote, who do not allow any dissension at all in fact, be allowed to host the greatest sporting event on the planet? China has an appalling human rights record against its own citizens and this has troubled many people. China has promised the rest of the world that it will improve its human rights record. It also promised that it would open dialogue with Tibet about some kind of self determination. They promised this as part of the deal in getting the games and so far there seems to be no evidence that things have changed in the slightest. In fact when the Tibetan people took to the streets recently the Chinese sent in the troops and crushed any rebellion. If this is improving things I'd hate to see them clamp down.
So the events on the streets of London yesterday and on the streets of Paris today (and I have just heard on the BBC that the French authorities have cancelled the torch procession because of the demonstrations) have met with my full approval. It filled me with pride that so many people took to the streets to stand up for an oppressed people. The media of course, has focused on the few people that committed civil disobedience by trying to disrupt the torch's progress. Some commentators, stand up Duncan Goodhew, ex-Olympic swimming Gold Medalist, have chosen to label these protesters criminals. He told BBC News 24 viewers that the torches progress was being spoilt by people partaking in criminal behaviour and the protesters were violent. I would beg to differ. There was definitely no violence in any of the protests. If you view the footage of the protester who tried to grab the torch from Konnie Huq you will see he did not try to barge her over or push her to the ground, all he did was try to take the torch from her. I would agree that the protesters who set of the fire extinguisher were a bit misguided and shouldn't have taken that course of action but the protesters did not hurt anyone. The other protests we saw were merely people wanting to stand in the way of the torch. They were unceremoniously bundled, rugby tackled or thrown to the ground by several burly policeman. Standing in the way of something is not, in my opinion, criminal behaviour. In fact a senior Metropolitan Police officer stated that the thirty-five arrests were for 'minor public order offences'. Not exactly the violent protests that Mr Goodhew would have us believe. He may have in fairness said what he said in the heat of the moment, but as an ex-Olympic medalist I would have preferred him to think about the Tibetan peoples plight instead of sport for a change.
There was another thing that worried me (surprise, surprise from ranty boy). The 'Torch Attendants' that ran along with it along the route. Who are these people? We were told that they are the guardians of the torch, why then did they look like Chinese secret service men? What are we doing allowing that kind of security for a bloody torch. I can understand if Hu Jintao, the President of China, came to these shores that he might have a secret service present, but there is no need for it with a torch. They were not needed and just looked menacing.
Yesterday was important because it raised awareness of the Tibetan people cause. I hope the protests continue. I also hope that the Olympic Games are a success and that sportsman taking part will be aware that the people of Tibet are being oppressed. The Dalai Lama has stated that the games should go ahead and we should remember that. The protests recently are not about cancelling the games or calling for a boycott but rather about stopping China using the games as propaganda that they believe in peace and unity. The world should know about what is going on in Tibet and in the puppet regime in Burma and remember that whilst watching the games.
Labels: Human Rights., Tibet