So why won’t I be gawking at the Games?

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

The Olympic Games get under way tomorrow and while other years I’ve been pretty happy to sit in front of the telly, cheering on our Kiwi sporting heroes, this time around I’m boycotting the Games.

In these rather fragile economic times, when businesses are struggling to survive and many local manufacturers are being forced out of the market by a flood of cheap imports from certain offshore locales, I have had some difficulty getting my head around our Government signing a free-trade agreement with China. (I realise that’s probably a somewhat simplistic view on my part, but hey, what’s wrong with simplistic?)

Now, we’re expected to be happy about our athletes, and those from everywhere else, rocking on up to China to take part in what should be a proud sporting event.

Sorry International Olympic Committee dudes and dudettes but I’m just not buying it. Back when South Africa had a policy of racial segregation, most of the world said no, we’re not going to play with you.  And rightly so.

However, for some reason we’re supposed to be prepared to overlook China’s not-so-spectacular record of human rights issues and enjoy the Games: we’re meant to simply forget about Tiananmen Square and the tanks, Tibet and the censorship of the internet. They’ve now said they’ll open the net up for the Games. For the media anyway. I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude because we were promised free and open internet for the games months ago. And besides, the locals are still being locked out.

Amnesty International’s report 10 days out from the games details how China had reneged on its promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics.

So, while the Olympic Games are saturating news coverage everywhere, I’m going to be checking out some different sports, in my own special protest.

Sports like camel wrestling and outhouse racing, or how about train surfing and underwater hockey? If all else fails, I’ll start my own sporting league. Like synchronised wading, for those of us who can’t swim. With teams of one, for those of us who have no co-ordination.

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