China's Bid for the Gold

If even Taiwan wants the capital of China to win its bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, it would seem hard to argue otherwise.

But then, Taiwan's reasons are rather political: Keeping the world spotlight on China's behavior in the run-up to the Games could help curb the mainland's bellicose threats to the island and perhaps improve its human rights record.

The last thing the International Olympic Committee needs now, though, is to inject politics into its quadrennial selection of a site for the Summer Games. The IOC's image was tainted enough by some members accepting gifts from bidding nations, and by past use of performance drugs among many athletes.

Politics were probably why the IOC rejected Beijing's bid in 1993, soon after the Tiananmen incident. Now, in making its decision on Friday, the IOC will hopefully judge Beijing more dispassionately, looking just at its readiness as a reliable city to host a large athletic event with thousands of visitors. (See story, page 1.)

The Bush administration decided not to oppose China's bid, a wise move that will help depoliticize the Olympics. Staying neutral on the venue choice is different from supporting China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which required US government approval.

Still, both entering the WTO and possibly hosting the Olympics would have similar effects on reducing China's ardent nationalism and embedding it in international norms.

But that shouldn't be the IOC's goal, for that would only politicize the Games. Rather, the IOC can fulfill its peaceful purpose by choosing the best city for athletes from around the world to live up to Olympic ideals.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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