Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Torch's Progress

As I watch the news, the Olympic torch is proceeding through London, surrounded by coppers keeping demonstrators at a distance, and the police have so far arrested 25 people.

I’m a massive sports fan (more in the spectator than participant sense, admittedly), but the argument that politics should be kept out of sport is just banal. Do I really have to point out that the Chinese regime’s crimes - including executions, sweatshop exploitation and denial of self-determination – are actually more important than who wins the 110m hurdles? I also tend to think that the belief that you can achieve real political change by boycotting sporting events is also banal. But using a sporting event as a backdrop to get attention and support for your cause? Yeah, go for it.

I would happily hold a placard reading ‘Free Tibet’, or ‘Solidarity Against Sweatshops’ as the torch goes past – though I’ll not be waving anything lauding the Dalai Lama – and were I younger, more energetic and actually available to do these things, I’d probably do something more dramatic than wave a placard too.

But what of our ‘Labour’ government? There will be words in support of the right to protest, but the overall approach of the workers’ movement’s political representatives has been to discourage protest and protect the image of one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Gordon Brown manages only to ask the Chinese government to ‘talk to the Dalai Lama’ – whoa, that’d be a meeting where democratic working-class interests got no look-in at all. You don’t suspect fear of protests in 2012, do you? Still, at least they haven’t killed anyone.

Latest: The torch has now hitched a rise on a bus. Any runners in the Marathon fancy trying that?

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