Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Human Rights and the Olympic Games

We are listening to the song Hey Jude  of Beatles

Human Rights and the Olympic Games 


(Οn the occasion of  the Olympic Games 2012 in London)

The Olympic Games have the unique ability to create a powerful stage for the promotion of international human rights.
In order to understand the role human rights play in current Olympic planning, we have to draw a distinction between the role of human rights in developed and developing nations.

Furthermore, international sporting events provide a platform for nationalistic competition without political consequences. In addition, the Olympics are viewed by millions of people, making it one of the most successful international sporting events in history. Therefore, the Games have the ability to promote international human rights but the question is if all has the same desire; Thus, the Games have a history of successes and failures associated with the promotion of human rights.

The history of human rights and the Olympic Games is complex and ever changing. Human rights are universally valid and an international sporting event such as the Olympics must recognize their position within the international community and responsibility in enforcing the ideals of human rights onto participatory nations. Nevertheless, sometimes the Olympics have been viewed as a political farce, with the constant threats of boycotts and the need for sanctions.  The historical analysis highlights the ability to promote human rights with the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa and the democratization of South Korea, while the Games have had the tendency to demote the values of Olympism and the value of international human rights as seen at the Berlin, Mexico, Beijing and partly at the 2000 Sydney Games.
These Games were marred with the human rights abuses of the host countries that the IOC conveniently overlooked, aiding in devaluing the notion of international human rights.

Sport has an unparalleled ability to promote development and the Olympics have the ability to generate great economic activity in host nations.

The Seoul and Beijing Games provide starkly different accounts of the ability of the Games to affect developing nations; The stronger the position of power within the international community, the greater the ability of a host nation to utilize the Olympics for their own purpose. Therefore, while the Seoul Games were able to help bring about democratization and an increased respect for human rights, the Beijing Games failed at bringing about changes to domestic policy concerning the adherence to international human rights. It follows that the less power a country has in the international community the greater chance the Olympics have in bringing about changes to domestic policies concerning human rights.

However, the international prestige associated with hosting the Games does not come cheap; therefore, many developing countries are unlikely to host the Olympics in the future. It is in those countries where human rights abuses are commonplace that benefits from hosting the Olympics range the highest. For example, if Sudan were to host the Games there would need to be great changes in domestic policies, the  stabilization of domestic politics and the end to the horrible genocide in Darfur. The Olympics does have the ability to promote change in countries that desperately need it, unfortunately economic interests drive Olympic organizers.

The role of human rights involved in the Olympic Games of developed countries is greatly different than developing countries. Developed countries attempt to gloss over any past human rights abuses. The Sydney Games promoted the cultural image of Aboriginality, without real inclusion of the Aboriginal community in the planning process, tarnishing the cultural legacy of their Games.

 However, the role of human rights and the Olympics will change depending on the host nation. We are likely to see a continued emphasis of the importance of human rights in Olympic planning; however, the Olympics will never fill its full potential in promoting the ideals of human rights and Olympism until the underlying economic values of the Games are diminished and the international community places greater emphasis on the promotion of international human rights.

Cassandra Schwarz

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