By Victor D. Cha
The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 8, 2007; Page A15
One year from today, Beijing will host the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics. For two weeks we will be treated to athletic performances that animate dreams and inspire the world, set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most ancient and celebrated civilizations. That, at least, is the way Beijing would like to sell the Games. For better or worse, they will mark a critical crossroads in China‘s development as a responsible global player.
The Olympics have historically been a political event. Fascist and communist regimes tried to use the Games in Berlin in 1936 and Helsinki in 1952 to demonstrate the superiority of their political and social systems. The U.S. and Soviet boycotts of the 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles) Olympics, respectively, were hardly the first time the Games were used politically. Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon did not participate in 1956 (Melbourne) because of the Suez crisis; Germany was banned from the 1920 Games for its actions in World War I; and South Africa faced bans because of its apartheid policy, to cite a few examples.
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