Yael Arad
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Leave the athletes out of it
Instead of calls for sports boycott, diplomatic and economic pressure on China needed

Human rights is a very important issue, but why is everyone remembering it now? Why didn’t they cry out eight years ago, when the International Olympic Committee decided that the Olympic Games would be held in China? Then it was unchallenged, now they are trying to turn the athletes into hostages.


Heads of states can express their protest, and their protest is important. But athletes cannot be demanded to boycott the Olympic Games. Athletes, although they represent their countries, are first and foremost people with a dream and a life's work in which they have invested their time and energy from an early age. Taking part in the Olympic Games is the peak of realization as far as they are concerned.


It's improper to ask them to give up everything and rob them of their dream, while the human rights issue in China has been a known fact for years. None of us has stopped purchasing products made in China in protest in our private lives, or stopped doing business in China in the name of human rights.


Perhaps we should start by dealing with the problems of the foreign workers in our backyard before attempting to fix the world by crushing the careers of athletes in Israel and worldwide.


Instead of populist calls for a sports boycott, we must take advantage of the limelight which is now illuminating the human rights problem in China in order to exert diplomatic pressure, and particularly continuous economic pressure, on the Chinese government. The heads of states' boycott of the Olympic Games is remarkable, but it won't solve the problem on its own.


Sport has always been a symbol of a bridge between nations, countries, cultures and religions. These Olympic Games, more than anything, are an opportunity for hope and and opportunity o exposing the Chinese people to the Western world's vision.


Yael Arad was the first Israeli sportsperson to win an Olympic medal


Brought to print by Moshe Sidi


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