The history of the Olympic Games is full of boycotts. To call such actions “politicizing” the Games may not be fully accurate. We at Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation and Taiwan February 28th Movement Net Radio would like to point out that many of these boycotts are justified. They were carried out in order to make a statement about democracy and equality. The ancient Greeks, who conceived the Olympics and who were also pioneers of democracy and democratic ideology, might actually be proud of such actions!
Examining the boycotts with the benefits of hindsight, some did make powerful, avant-garde statements. For example, in the first Olympics to be boycotted, the 1956 Melbourne Game, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland refused to participate in protest of the Soviet repression of Hungarian Uprising. Who would have known that about three decades later, the US president Ronald Reagan would call the Soviet Union the “evil empire.” And that the dissolution of USSR in 1991 would be celebrated by the whole world as the beginning of a new, peaceful era with the end of Cold War and flourishing of democracy and freedom in the Eastern Europe.
In the same year’s Olympics boycott, the world also witnessed the attempt to resist imperial rule and aggression. Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon also refused participating the Melbourne Game to protest joint military attack on Egypt, for the country’s decision to nationalize the Suez Canal after Britain and the United States withdrew their funding to build the Aswan Dam. The four former French colonies’ resistance against the joint military attack carried out by Britain, France and Israel proved to be effective in ending the British and French imperialism in Middle East and Southeast Asia. The Suez Crisis of 1956 turned out to be the last British military expedition abroad without the US assistance.
Then there is the African’s well-known struggle against Apartheid. A large number of African countries threatened to boycott the 1972 and 1976 Games to force the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. Since then, the issue of racial equality gained further momentum, especially within the United States.
We, the Taiwanese people, certainly took our part in making a statement in the history of Olympic Games. In resistance against PRC’s pressure to undermine our sovereignty, we boycotted the 1976 and 1980 Games.
In contrast to Richard Halloran’s article title (see Beijing Politicizing the Olympics), we, at Tati and the Taiwan February 28th Movement Net Radio, never see the aforementioned Olympic Games boycotts as politicizing or even political. They are about human rights, about international peace, and about racial equality. All are noble causes of humanity and well-accepted ideologies among civilized societies.