Olympics 2008: Trouble On The Red Horizon?
The Detroit Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup. The Boston Celtics have won the NBA Championship. Tiger Woods is out for the remainder of the PGA season. The MLB All-Star game is a joke.
So what's next? Imminent disaster in Beijing, if you ask me.
The 2008 Summer Olympics kick off in China in August and as a former member of the U.S. Track & Field Team, I am ecstatic to say the least.
There are, however, several major reasons to be concerned with Games this year. My biggest concerns have nothing to do with the athletic competition.
First, let me briefly run down the athletic side of the events.
The ongoing legal sagas involving Marion Jones, Trevor Graham and Tim Montgomery have cast a huge shadow over the U.S. Track & Field organization.
It's hard to imagine who had the bigger fall from grace.
Jones has been stripped of every medal she won since 2000, including the five medals she was awarded at the Sydney Games.
Montgomery, the former world record holder in the 100 meters, was not only involved in a steroid scandal, but he subsequently faced criminal charges for money laundering and eventually was found guilty of dealing heroin. Sheesh!
Trevor Graham has coached 14 members of the U.S. Track & Field team, including Jones, Montgomery and C.J. Hunter. The latter two were both married to Jones at some point and found guilty of doping. Graham has been involved in the federal investigation of the infamous BALCO organization. He was found guilty of lying to Federal investigators last month.
Like many MLB players, U.S. track athletes will arrive in Beijing with the baggage of having some of the most prominent members of the U.S. Track & Field team disgraced and banned from the sport.
It won't help that in some of the premiere events of track and field, namely the 100 and 400 meter sprints, the long jump, and 1500 meter run, the U.S. men will not only be underdogs to win, but could easily not even secure any medals at all.
There are a few women who could salvage the 'name brand' events for the U.S. Keep an eye out for Torri Edwards, Shannon Rowbury and Porscha Lucas to make some noise on the oval.
Michael Phelps will again carry most of the load for the Men's Swimming Team, and while the women will not have any clear-cut favorites for gold, they do have gold medal potential in most of the short races.
Then, of course, there's this year's version of USA Basketball's dream teams on both the men's and women's side.
The women who have won three straight Olympic gold medals should skate through the Olympics and having Candace Parker on the roster just makes the inevitability of a U.S. victory even more...well inevitable.
The Men's team, while as strong as we've seen since the 1996 Olympic team, will still have its hands full trying to bring home a gold medal.
Of course, I could spend several pages detailing medal potential in other sports like boxing, gymnastics and many others, but let's get to the heart of the matter.
Despite all of the potential for great athletic competition at the highest level, there is a deafening roar that is louder than any cheers you will hear from any group of spectators who will attend the games and that roar is the sound of worldwide protest for the games being held in Beijing to begin with.
It makes you wonder, in lieu of all of the worldwide protests to China's hosting the Olympics, how in the world were they ever awarded the games to begin with?
Believe it or not, this is yet another tragedy that the world can blame on the Bush administration, deservedly or not.
In March 2001, a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the U.S. plane, along with 24 American crewmen to make an emergency landing at a Chinese air base.
All of the crewmen, including three women and eight "Chinese code-breakers" were taken into custody and evidence suggested that the Chinese government had begun stripping the U.S. plane of sensitive material.
Prior to that event, the U.S. had been adamant about blocking any bid made by China to host the Olympics, citing China's civil rights violations record. China, in response to U.S. condemnation, issued a 200-page document detailing the U.S.'s own civil rights record (touché China, touché).
Nevertheless, three months after the spy plane crash landed on a Chinese air base, Beijing was indeed awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, without objection from the U.S. and despite claims from some in the IOC that Paris and Toronto, also in the bidding process, were technically superior cities.
Did the United States cave in to China in order to get their plane and crewmen back home safely and in a timely matter? If they did, was it the right thing to do? Of course, we'll never know the answers to those questions.
What we do know, however, is that as we get closer to the opening ceremonies, the calls for protests and outright boycotts of the games have not only come from some the highest levels of international politics and media but some of these protests have taken a violent nature.
All of this public objection suggests that it is hard to believe the Olympics will go unmarred by some sort of international incident. In light of the climate of terrorism that has been fostered by the never-ending conflict in Iraq and the resurgence of Al Qaeda, China has the potential to allow a tenuous situation to become hostile.
None of us want to see any athletes, officials or spectators put in harm's way for the sake of some individual or group making a political statement. Unfortunately, China is one of the few nations where the U.S. military and/or security will certainly find itself unwelcome.
Let us pray that the Olympics go off without a hitch and we are treated to athletic competition at the highest level, because with China's arrogant stand toward the international community, its apparent disregard for the aspirations of its population base and its proximity to regions of the world where the enemies of America fester, we may need an act of God to ensure nothing tragic happens.
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