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Column: IOC Double Standard Tarnishes Games

This story was written by Aditi Dubey, The Triangle

The Olympics and the institution of the Olympics: probably two of the pet conversation topics these days. The Olympics, historically, are a multi-sport event in which many countries participate, compete and seek glory. The Web site of the International Olympic Committee says, "The games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles." They are a display of talent and nerve and now, politics.

The International Olympic Committee was instituted in 1894, and the 1896 Olympics held in Athens, Greece were the first coordinated by the committee. This committee also accepts bids from different countries who want to host the, Olympics, and the committee members vote to decide where the event will finally be held. This is where the institution comes in. As the years have gone by, the Olympics have become progressively more politically charged. In 2002, some members of the committee were charged with taking bribes in what was called "the 2002 Olympics Winter Bid Scandal," BBC News reported. The investigations resulted in 10 members of the committee being expelled, and another 10 being sanctioned. Though this paved the way for stricter rules for bidding, it tainted the IOC's reputation as a governing body. People became skeptical of the fairness of the Olympic Games themselves.

This year, the IOC was in the news a number of times; first for picking Beijing, China as the hosting city, and then recently for banning athletes from Iraq from competing in the upcoming Olympics. Many international non-profit organizations, including Free Tibet and Amnesty International tried to pressure IOC into rejecting China's bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, in protest of the human rights violations that have been ongoing in the country for many years. According to Amnesty International reports, in 2001 China made a promise to improve its human rights record if given the honor of hosting the Olympic Games. That did not happen. In fact, BBC News reported that some Chinese dissenters, who called on the IOC to reject China's Olympics bid, in light of its bad human rights record, were arrested. In 2004, a Chinese activist, Ye Guozhu, who sought to organize a demonstration against evictions in Beijing, was sentenced to four years in jail, according to the BBC News.

Guozhu had applied to stage a 10,000-strong rally in the capital after family's home was demolished in 2003 to make way for new construction being done in Beijing as a part of the planned redevelopments in the city ahead of the 2008 Olympics. News reports about more such instances have been published time and again, and yet the IOC has not done anything about the fact that residents of the city are being forcefully evicted from their rightful homes because of the Olympics. The claims are that the IOC wants to stay away from the politics and internal affairs of nations.

Yet, it doesn't. According to a BBC News report published in June, the IOC imposed a provisional suspension on athletes from Iraq from competing in the Olympics, accusing its government of political interference in the country's sporting affairs. This came as a huge blow to the seven Iraqi athletes from five different sports that were qualified to participate in the Olympics.

Two of these are rowers, two sprinters, one weightlifter, one judo competitor and one archer. This is a much bigger blow to these sportsmen than any of us can imagine. Not only have these athletes being practicing in highly adverse conditions, given the political situation of the country, this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. If anything, these athletes should be commended for their endurance and persistence rather than being banned from participating at all. Some of them interviewed with the BBC and voiced their frustration and diappointment. Given the state of turmoil in the country, many of these athletes aren't even sure they will be around by the time the next Olympics roll around after four years.

Luckily for some of these athletes, the IOC and the Iraqi government reached an agreement July 29 that will allow Iraqi athletes to participate in the Games. Unfortunately, only four of the original hopefuls will be able to compete, since other countries filled the other slots while the ban was in effect.

Politics interfered with these athletes having a fair chance to compete in the Olympics; all this while people are still being evicted and jailed in China for speaking out against that regime. Both situations stem from countries' internal affairs, and yet the IOC has reacted differently to each. Actions such as this not only call into question the IOC's fairness, but also imply the existence of double standards and corruption within the committee. It appears as though the country with more power gets away with the same things which a country with almost no power does not. While it may be that none of these implications are true, the fact that there is growing unrest about the IOC's modus operandi is a matter of concern. There should be no bans that are based on internal affairs and politics.

If an organization seeks to be politically independent, they must be politically independent for all -- an equal opportunity organization so to speak -- and not make scapegoats out of any one nation or region, whatever the cause may be. Events such as the Olympics are anticipated and watched by many. They are a chance for each athlete to give something back to their nation, to bring it glory and to make their people proud. Something as personal and important as this deserves greater reverence, and deserves to be protected by higher standards than these.