Heen says:

As the flame of Olympus nears the city of Peking (yeah, I know, they call it Beijing these days), voices have been heard calling for the Games to be boycotted. Not that it would be the first time, of course – the 1980 Moscow Olympics were boycotted by a number of countries headed by the USA and four years later it was the Soviet Union’s turn to boycott the Los Angeles Games. Before that, there were also boycotts in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne and in 1972 in Munich. Before we look at the political side to this, let’s dwell for a moment on the sporting implications. Fewer countries participating means fewer top competitors, which means the standard of sporting achievements must be lower. Or does it…?


The number of world records broken during the Moscow Olympics was the highest ever, 14, and 6 of the world records established in Los Angeles are yet to be broken. Let’s look at just one sporting event and see to what extent Olympic boycotts have.


In 1963, the Indian riflewoman Nandita Singh set a new world record of 2,512 points in the women’s skeet category. This record lasted until the Moscow Olympics, when it was broken by Singh’s countrywoman Sajeeta Patel, who scored 2,530 points, pocketing the gold medal, needless to say. Patel renewed her crown four years later, notching up exactly the same score. This record has held ever since. No American or Russian has ever come near it.


So there you go. That settles it, doesn’t it. Boycotts don’t affect sporting prowess, even if they may be a good way to make a political point, and even that isn’t so clear. You could argue that the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics helped bring down the communist regime of the Soviet Union, OK, perhaps slightly, but the boycott of the Los Angeles Games didn’t do much to bring about the collapse of the American capitalist system, did it. So that argument doesn’t hold. I mean, come on, it would be like the White House campaigning for the next Olympics to be held in Tehran, so that they could boycott them and crush the mullahs’ regime. Does anyone in their right mind think that by not sending a couple of hurdlers or shotputters to Peking, there are going to be fewer crummy Chinese T shirts on our street market stalls and the Chinese Communist Party is going to self-destruct? Yeah, right.


Oh, and there’s Tibet, too, isn’t there. Not too sure about that. That Dalai Lama is a bit creepy, if you ask me. Or is that Nepal? I keep getting them mixed up. All those monks and stuff.


OK, so I made up that example about the Indian riflewoman. So what. You get my point.



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