IOC Jaques Rogge Speaks Out on China


Dear readers, As you know, my weekend is not complete without the Financial Times Weekend edition. Normally, I get the paper, retire to my nearest biker bar, Fat Boyz, sit down in the back booth and have a) excellent mugs of black coffee, b) breakfast, and c) no phone calls for two hours.

This weekends, April 27, 2008, is a a must read! Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC gave the Financial Times an interview, and the articles, which are on page 1 and page 3, plus on the website (

Rogge's comments are a warning to the West to lay off the Chinese, plus some astute historical observations on Western hypocrisy and Chinese evolution-several good points. Read one dear readers, and send me your thoughts. After my long walk on Sunday, I will respond on this very important topic, a topic that will never, ever go away: politics and the Olympics.

The ignorance of West and East

"I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person."

Socrates, quoted by Plato, 'The Death of Socrates'


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery."

Lao Tsu,

Ah, the challenges of Western and Eastern thought. We begin, readers, with a couple of nice quotes from Socrates (actually Plato quoting Socrates) and Lao Tsu, an older contempary of Confucius, to whom the development of Taoism is attributed.

We in the West misunderstand the East and our friends in the East misunderstand the West. The huge egoism involved in both sides has stopped us, much more than language barriers, from understanding or appreciating each other's viewpoints.

The Olympic Torch, beginnings...

A case in point is the Olympic Torch Relay. The Olympic torch relay was a public relations stunt developed by the king of public relations, one Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for the National Socialists before they went into power, and the Nazi's, after they gained power in 1933. Instead of blowing off the Olympics which were to be staged in Berlin, Goebbels convinced Hitler that getting the entire nation in shape, and finding its' best athletes would show the world that Aryan pride was not merely the hodge podge fusion of several different deranged philosophical systems, but a reality.

The first Olympic torch relay was featured in Leni Reifensthal's 1938 film, Olympiad. This movie uses the well honed propaganda skill's that Reifensthal perfected in her 1935 film on the Nuremberg rallies, Triumph of the Will , where she chronicled the famous Nuremberg Rally of 1934, where the Nazi party held its yearly love fest.

In making her movies, Reifensthahl understood the ability of a great film to capture legend and myth and make them something much more. The Olympic torch relay was memorialized as something grand, an act where one communes with the ancient gods of Olympus and the modern athletes who pursue the goals of "Citius, altius, fortius."

Hence, from the 1936, Olympics, while some insist that Jesse Owens showed Hitler that the Nazi super race was an illusion, it is arguable whether Hitler viewed the majority of Owen's spectacular performances. Hitler was first offended when Cornelius Johnson won the high jump and two African Americans, Johnson and Albritton went gold, silver in the high jump. Hitler left the stadium and was probably not present during Owens' great performances. The West has the illusion that Owens challenged Hitler, when in fact, the remaining tradition from the Berlin Olympics is the Olympic torch relay.

One final caveat on the 1936 Olympics. I am not in favor of ending the Olympic Torch Relay. Also from 1936, it was the first Olympics that a type of television was broadcast-should we cancel that as well? I do believe that we live in a complicated world, and that until we have looked at the entire picture, and appreciate other viewpoints, we can not hope to make a thoughtful decision.

One brownie point for the IOC in the 1936 Olympics. The head of the IOC at the time was a Belgian named Count Henri de Baillet-Latour. It was Latour who totally infuriated Adolf Hitler in early 1935, after a visit to Berlin, where he promised to use the weight of public opinion to move the Olympic venue if Hitler did not take down the signage around Berlin forbidding Jews to congregate in public places. Not only did Hilter do that, be the Nazis loosened up some of the rules during the Olympics in order that most visitors thought that much of Western press comments on Nazi control was rumor.

The misconception on the Olympic Torch Relay today

The Olympic Torch Relay was supposed to be, from the Chinese government's viewpoint, a wonderful way to bring the world together and celebrate the Olympic coming to Beijing. The $40 billion reportedly spent on modernizing the city was done to showcase the modern China. The majority of Chinese, whether in the mainland or not, seem quite proud and excited about the Olympic Games coming to China.

Whomever was hired as consultants for the IOC and the Chinese government should have been fired. Neither group gave either the IOC or the Chinese their money's worth. The Chinese government should have known that the stomping of peaceful, but civilly disobedient Tibetans was a no-no and that the world would watch in disgust. The IOC should have known that protests on such a world stage as the Olympic torch relay do not come often.

The Chinese also believe that if they say something is an internal issue, we need to respect that. In our fin de siecle, we are the world, Western zeitgeist, we in the West feel that we a) know better, b) should be able to force our right way of thinking on someone else because it is right, c) ignore the concerns, ways of the other country. It has gone from the Ugly American to the Ugly Westerner. Remember, protests on the torch were violent in Paris, London, before they hit San Francisco.

And then, San Francisco. Look, I love the city by the bay. An alum of my university is mayor and he runs the city like he is in Ethics 101. Tenny Wright, one of my Jesuit religious professors, would be proud. Heck, I like the mayor and find his musings great fodder for this blog! The city will protest anything and it believes that it is our inherent right to show the indignities of the world and force change through protest. The IOC picked the wrong city to run the torch relay through when it picked SF. No argument here.

Hence, the meeting of two great forces, the protesters and the status quo.

The public relations fiasco from the Chinese viewpoint has been horrendous. They are terrified that their Beijing celebration will be for naught. Add to that, concerns about Chinese products and Chinese repression. The Financial Times story that the guards watching the Olympic Torch were all Chinese People's Army members was not a good piece of information either.

The facts are these. The Dalai Lama has asked for autonomy for Tibet, not independence, he has never suggested or condoned violence. When the Beijing government accuses the Dalai Lama of that, they hurt themselves.

The Xianhou News Agency, a Chinese government news agency presents a pretty accurate view of the Chinese as very upset with Western hypocrisy over the Tibet situation and the Olympic Torch protests. In China, some are calling for a boycott of Western goods. Others are calling for calmness.

The Beijing government has announced that talks will resume with talks with Tibet. This should be applauded and watched.

In the commentary in the Financial Times, Jaques Rogge, the President of the IOC asks the West to stop the criticism of the Chinese government for the moment. He reminds us that up to 40 years ago, most European governments had colonies and " all that was good or bad with colonies.. it took us 200 years to learn from the French Revolution..."

In that point, Rogge is correct. China was in civil war in 1949. Th excesses of Mao Ze Deng in the People's Movement of the 1960's has some frightening comparisons to the aftermaths of the French revolution. US politics, Vietnam to the present has presented us with some great points to consider the regarding our hypocrisy. And we do need to consider it.

Rogge also points out that the Olympics is a movement for social change. An admirable comment, and a bit of a change for Rogge, but he is allowed revisions. This is the man who has stayed very tough on the new drug testing protocals and has worked hard to remove much of the corruption from elections and from within the IOC.

A step was made by the Chinese government. Let us see how they follow up, and give them some breathing room. The results of the past few weeks must terrify them, as the can not afford to have the entire world consider the brand, and China is such an animal, the brand of China as something full of corruption, poor products and the mistreatment of its people.

The Chinese government has been trying to use the IOC and the Olympics as its coming out party. The IOC, a bit reluctantly, but still, it should be applauded, is pressuring China to loosen up on Tibet and understand that coming to the world sports party has more of a price tag than a $40 billion sprucing up of Beijing.

Let us watch now for the next 101 closely and try to determine, what is cultural ignorance on our part, and just clumsiness politically on their part. It will be a learning experience for both sides.....

For more, click

Look up Lao Tse, Confucious, The Long March, Socrates, class dismissed...

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