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Sport und Politik Political Lies & Olympic Games

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One of the biggest and most disastrous political whoppers of the early 21st century was the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The US used this bogus accusation to start a war in 2003 that has cost a million of lives, and whose aftermath is still ravaging Iraq today. To commemorate the lie that resulted in the US-led invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003, the 20th of March is now celebrated every year as the anniversary of the political lie.

Foul Play before Beijing

The date was proclaimed in 2006 by Germany’s Peter Weiss Foundation for Art and Politics to mark the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Set up in 1989, the foundation’s activities include support for cultural forms of resistance against oppression. Every year on 20 March, it organises simultaneous international readings of a chosen text on the political lie. In 2007, 1.5 million people worldwide listened to readings of articles by Anna Politkovskaya, the murdered Russian journalist who risked her life to expose her country’s crimes against humanity.

This year the anniversary centres on simultaneous readings worldwide of an essay, „In Memory of the Forgotten“, by the great Chinese revolutionary writer Lu Xun (1881-1936). Known as the father of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun was one of the founders of the China League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai . A socialist who never joined Mao’s Communist Party, Lu Xun was censored during his lifetime for his criticism of state repression and support for democracy.

Lu Xun died in 1936, the year of the infamous Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany. The political lie reached a peak at that event. Germany was in the throes of massive rearmament, world governments were urging appeasement, and visiting Olympic teams were photographed solemnly giving Nazi salutes. All this gave the Nazis the opportunity to show a glittering picture of Germany to the world, covering up their plans for war and their virulent persecution of political opponents, Jews and other minorities. If there had been a contest for lying, Hitler and his propaganda minister, Goebbels, would certainly have won the gold medal. Hitler had a winning formula for deceiving the people of Germany and the world: „Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

The Olympic Lie 1936/2008

This year the 2008 Olympics will be held from 8-24 August in Beijing. In the run-up to the Games, the Peter Weiss Foundation has announced that it is using the 3rd anniversary of the political lie on 20 March to draw attention to censorship in China, the silence about injustices in its recent history, the repression in Tibet, the huge number of death sentences, China’s collaboration with the Sudanese regime and the imprisonment of civil rights activists. Particular mention is given to the 34-year-old activist Hu Jia, known for his commitment to human rights and HIV/AIDS sufferers. In January 2008, Hu Jia was imprisoned after six months under house arrest.

Hu Jia is just one case of the big clean-up that has been going on for some time now in China. The aim is to sweep away dissidents and critics of the country’s monolithic one-party system before the world’s press and sports people arrive for the August Olympics. There are already disturbing parallels with the 1937 Nazi Olympics. On 10 February 2008, the London newspaper „Mail on Sunday“ revealed that members of the British Olympic team selected for Beijing have to sign a clause in their contract agreeing not to speak out during the games. The clause states that athletes „are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues“, which could include China’s human rights record.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) said the Olympic athletes would be allowed to answer direct questions on their experiences in China, but they did not want British team members using the games as “a soap box“.

A former British government minister condemned the BOA’s policy as „a squalid attempt to suppress legitimate criticism of the Chinese regime by British athletes“. Meanwhile there are rumours that Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, will refuse to attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing in protest against China’s human rights abuses in Tibet. Prince Charles has openly supported the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader, in his campaign for the liberation of Tibet from Chinese rule.

The British government is reluctant to comment on official attempts to gag its Olympic team. Like many other Western nations, Britain has its sights set on lucrative economic deals with China, and is largely prepared to overlook Chinese human rights abuses.

Remembering the Forgotten

The great poet Lu Xun wrote his essay „In Memory of the Forgotten“ in 1933, seventy years before the big political lie that led to the Iraq war. He would surely wonder at the mass of political lies accompanying the Olympic torch to his country today. Lu Xun’s essay was a sad, touching remembrance of five committed young poets who were arrested by the Shanghai police force, put in chains and executed by firing squad in 1931. Lu Xun concluded with a plea to speak out against forgetting, and against the cruelty of every society that sacrifices the lives of its young people:

„It is not the young who are writing obituaries for the old — during the last thirty years with my own eyes I have seen the blood of so many young people mounting up that now I am submerged and cannot breathe. All I can do now is take up my pen and write a few more articles, as if to make a hole in the clotted blood through which I can draw a few more wretched breaths. What sort of world is this? The night is so long, the way so long, that I had better forget or else remain silent. But I know, if I do not do so, a time will come when others will remember them and speak of them. …“ — Lu Xun, “„In Memory of the Forgotten“, February 1933.

Karen Margolis

Dieser Beitrag ist ursprünglich auf dem Portal „Mut gegen rechte Gewalt“ erschienen (2002-2022).

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