Monday, 4 August 2008

Will The Olympics Be Free And Fair?

The Union Flag was raised today in Beijing's Olympic Park. With the Olympic Games now less than 3 days away, every news channel is full of stories about China, the preparation of athlete's from across the world and speculation about whether the ideals of Olympic Games can be delivered in one of the most secretive State's on the planet.

The Olympic movement stands for everything that ordinary human beings wish our planet to achieve. Freedom to express ourselves, excellence in everything we do and the ability of every participant - no matter your colour, creed or relative wealth - to be treated equally.

The challenge for China throughout the Games is two fold. Firstly they must show that China understands that it now benefits from freedom to trade with the rest of the civilised world and that in return it must act as a responsible partner by preserving the human rights of its people.
We don't need the Chinese government to jump through hoops or to betray their history. What we need them to do is to ensure that their people, (who supply so much of what we consume in the West), are treated fairly, that their companies conform to basic levels of social corporate responsibility and that the economic development policies they pursue allow our planet to have a sustainable future.

The second thing we require of the Beijing Olympic Games is that the athletes competing are able to do so on a level playing field. Drugs cheats, even their own, must be weeded out and denied any medal joy. Athletes from around the world must be also able to compete in acceptable air quality, so that they are not disadvantaged by having to compete in an atmosphere they could not possibly be used to.

And finally, every athlete must be treated equally. I am horrified to hear that the British Olympic Association have made arrangements for our athletes to have better equipped rooms than the standard rooms given to athletes from poorer nations by throwing money at Games organisers. Every athlete should be able to pick from a menu of equipment for rooms and the host country, as organisers, should be required to bear the cost of this to ensure the Olympics truly are Games of an even playing field and not Games where those with the most money can buy their way to small advantages.

I am in no doubt that British athlete will win more than our fair share of medals thanks to our investment, in this country, into elite sport. I am equally sure our athletes would want to see opponents from poorer nations afforded the same living conditions as they will enjoy to show that the medals they win are won on talent, dedication and preparation alone.

So, in brief, China and Beijing have a lot to prove over the next few weeks. The Olympic Games, and the Para Olympics that follow them, mean the world's attention is focused on China as a nation and how they treat athlete, journalist and spectator. They have a lot to live up to and a lot to lose. I hope China will prove its doubters and detractors wrong and show us a willingness to deliver and perform to the Olympic ideals. Only time will tell if I am right!

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