Abbey Wambach, US Soccer Olympian: She's going for the gold! (Everybody else can just fuck off.)
This is the most impassioned speech I've ever heard in defense of knowing nothing, caring less, and being deaf to the world's cries for our help. I hope soccer Olympian Abbey Wambach realizes her dream, wins a gold medal, and gets a gazillion dollars in endorsements.
It's apparently the only thing her brain and her heart have room for.
Other American athletes have, and have had, other styles of competing in the Olympics. In some athletes' brains and hearts, there's room for sport AND concern for the other human beings on Planet Earth. Not every Olympic athlete kisses a police state's ass so obediently and enthusiastically.
The upcoming Olympics in Beijing again raise the miserable question: Which superpower is teaching its values and emphases to the other? Which national giant is succeeding in shaping the future for the entire planet?
Is America -- are Americans -- setting an example for the world about Human Rights and the Rule of Law?
Or is the People's Republic of China teaching Americans how to keep their mouths shut about atrocities, genocide, state murders, religious repression, and censorship?
This really is a watershed moment for this miserable question, because under President Bush, the USA has plummetted toward the Police/Military/Authoritarian Model of sovereign governance. Historically -- not perfectly, but historically -- when the world's people scream, the American people respond loudly and generously.
Under Bush, we've been causing a lot of the screaming.
China rules by force, by weapons, by prisons. Will that be the model of national behavior which prevails in the future? And will our Olympic athletes be our vanguard, teaching young Americans how to make nice-nice to totalitarian dictatorships?
Differences between Abbey Wambach's quote in the text story below and in the graphic above -- the above is transcribed word for word from the radio program. If you click on "Listen Now," you can hear the audio version of the story.
I think I'd rather clean septic tanks than spend a dollar to see the Beijing Olympics. On TV, if I have a choice of watching these Olympics or Spongebob Squarepants re-runs, that will be a no-brainer. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Who doesn't get what he wants with tanks and assault rifles?
"All Things Considered"
National Public Radio
(USA non-commercial radio network)
Monday 14 April 2008
Is Free Speech at Risk
by Howard Berkes
Listen Now [3 min 37 sec]
The Beijing Olympics is still four months away but it's already considered one of the most politicized games in Olympic history.
Still, American Olympians gathered at the U.S. Olympic Committee's pre-Olympic Media Summit in Chicago seem determined to keep sports and politics separate.
Heather O'Reilly of the U.S. women's soccer team, is aware of China's record on human rights, but is also firm about her role at the Olympics.
"We are socially aware individuals and we understand why people are using (the Beijing Olympics) as a platform for change in the world," O'Reilly told a hotel ballroom filled with reporters. "But we're athletes. We're focusing on winning back that gold medal."
Teammate Abbey Wambach told the group that adding political expectations to the competitive pressures athletes already face is a bit much.
"That's a lot of responsibility," Wambach said, especially on top of the duty "... to represent your country and to perform and to try to win a gold medal ... it's a lot for one person to take on." [exact quote in graphic above.]
Speaking out at the Olympics has its price. The International Olympic Committee has warned athletes about "Rule 51" in the Olympic Charter, which all Olympic athletes agree to honor when they compete in the games. The rule says that "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
The rule also prohibits armbands, ribbons, buttons or other signs of "publicity or propaganda" on the equipment or clothing of Olympic athletes and officials.
American athletes accused of violating Rule 51 would be investigated by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Games Administration Board, which would recommend a response. But the Olympic Charter reserves a final decision for the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board, and it could send violators home.
"The two areas that are addressed most directly by Rule 51 are competition venues and the athlete's village," notes Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee. "Beyond that, athletes are free to express themselves anywhere and in any way they feel appropriate. Of course, you have to respect the laws of the country you're in."
That means athletes have nothing to fear from Olympic officials if they protest in some way outside the Olympic venues. But, it's not clear how Chinese authorities would react. They're so authoritarian, and fearful of dissent, they're expected to snoop on American visitors to the Olympics, according to the State Department. A State Department advisory warns that Americans can expect surreptitious surveillance, wire-tapping and undisclosed searches of hotel rooms during the Olympics.
But, this week's Olympic media event in Chicago closed its first day without any of the American athletes in attendance calling for or promising political acts. Even the politically minded see a clear line between competition and protest.
American softball pitcher Jennie Finch is one of hundreds of Olympic athletes who have joined Team Darfur, an effort to raise money for and awareness about the human rights and relief crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. China supports the government of Sudan, which is blamed for the crisis.
"Of course (Darfur) concerns me. It should concern everybody," Finch asserts. "But at the same time, it's separated from what I'm doing as an Olympian and what I'm competing for."
Gymnast Shawn Johnson says she and her teammates are focused on their Olympic dreams and goals. "In the end we are athletes ... I don't think there's going to be anything that's going to change the way we feel about the Olympics."