People Are Talking, But Why Am I Listening?

John Amaechi, an ambassador to London's Olympics 2012 bid and now Amnesty Internationals's sporting ambassador, is urging athletes to speak out against China's human rights abuses during this year's Olympics. Most of you out there don't know who the hell John Amaechi is, so for the 99% who are reading this and asking "who the hell is John Amaechi?", I'll tell you. He is a former NBA basketball player, a career journeyman who averaged a mere 6.2 points per game (though the Guardian describes him as a "star"), he never really distinguished himself in basketball and the only reason anybody knows his name is that he wrote a book last year in which he came out of the closet, the first former NBA player to publicly announce that he was gay.

I don't find Amaechi's desire for athletes to speak out surprising, in fact I could really care less, what I do find surprising is that the Guardian thought there were enough people in England who actually cared to know what Amaechi thinks. However, when it comes to China, especially these Olympics, the bar is far lower, stories about human rights, pollution, and the like can make their way into the papers whenever any old crackpot whose earned him or herself a bit of fame opens their mouths. What's next? David Blaine on Beijing's sustainable development? Simon Cowell talking about China's media freedoms?

The iconic silent protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics live in everyone's memory, but the IOC has since cracked down on such protests and there have been very few memorable ones at the Olympics in the aftermath. The star athletes in the dollar earning sports will be in the limelight, but if some rower or a mountain biker decides to protest, it will more than likely fail to become much of a story (though anything in Beijing that remotely hints of a protest, will quite possibly be picked up by the media).

Amaechi and his ilk need to shut the hell up and realize nobody cares what they have to say. It is one thing to speak your mind, it is another thing to hijack the Olympics to put forth your own (in some cases idiotic) agenda. To all the athletes in Beijing, don't ruin your 15 minutes of fame (more like 5 minutes) and do something stupid in the name of idealism, you'll only end up with egg on your face and you'll fail to advance your cause.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Olympics has always been a tool of political manipulation both for and against host governments. Why should the Chinese government receive special treatment? Perhaps they are overly sensitive because they have more "issues" than most governments? Historically, there are issues that are ignored by governments until people generate a little bit of disharmony here and there - it acts as a catalyst for change. Should foreigners be the ones to raise these politically sensitive issues? That's a complex issue. As guests? As fellow, empathic, human beings? Absolutely. There are less dire repercussions for foreign activists than than there are for Chinese nationals, so one might also argue that they are speaking up for the oppressed because the oppressed dare not. I'm all for non-violent activism (in any country, by anyone).

Regarding your comments about no-one caring about the issues that Amaechi raise, I assure you that a great many people care about the plight of disadvantaged, abused and oppressed people in other countries.

What you and I do share, I think, is a common distaste for clueless celebrities who feel the need to spout off about complex issues they know nothing about. For example, I was horrified by Sharon Stone's comments about karma. Ignorance (even well meaning ignorance) should never be encouraged or celebrated.