Olympic Pause

Few things used to be as pleasurable as my family sitting down under the golden arches with a double quarter-pounder with cheese, a heap of fries and a giant, icy-cold Coca-Cola. Mix the unmitigated glee of a toddler joining the party, Happy Meal chicken nuggets in one hand, Happy Meal toy in the other, and life is good.

Those days are over. McDonald's and Coke -- along with companies like Samsung and General Electric -- are "worldwide partners" of the Olympic Games, more specifically the International Olympic Committee, the rogue group that delivered the economic windfall that hosting an Olympics brings to the police state of China. GE, of course, is the parent company of NBC, the network broadcasting the Games. GE is the employer of Matt Lauer, who has already further discredited himself and his profession before the competition even begins by claiming on "Today" that the Chinese people  are a lot happier living under Communist rule than Americans living in a democratic republic.

The Olympics have long been a joke. The Games of the kids from Minnesota and Wisconsin getting over on the Soviet professionals on the ice and the sheer domination of the 1984 United States basketball team - made up entirely of amateurs, albeit amateurs named Jordan, Ewing, and Mullin - have given way to NHL and NBA all-star teams from many nations adding more laurels to already-thick resumes. Was it really just 20 years ago that we regularly decried the professional quality of Soviet-bloc athletes going against our college and high school amateurs? Now the conundrum is choosing between LeBron's USA jersey and Kobe's USA jersey. Winners of sprints and relays have hardly crossed the tape when speculation begins as to whether they are on the juice and the clock begins ticking on how long it will be before their medals are confiscated.

Television coverage of the Olympics has been reduced to Bob Costas looking earnest when introducing sappy mini-documentaries on athletes that are more appropriate to the Oxygen or Lifetime networks. This is all shown in lieu of actual competition. When events are shown, they are voiced over by commentators who seemingly have no idea what is happening in front of them. This is not to say that there are no longer dramatic moments full of genuine emotion and pride during the Olympics, moments of breathtaking athletic ability demonstrated in front of the world. But those have long been overshadowed by everything else, especially this year.

The Beijing Games of 2008 are quickly turning into the biggest howler of all, even apart from the dreadful government that oversees the farce. Chinese officials have worked assiduously to clean the air they have long polluted in time for the Games - banning cars, banning smoking. Amazingly enough, the government has not yet banned residents from exhaling outdoors. This strategy has worked so well that American cyclists showed up in China wearing masks. The world's preeminent marathoner decided he'd rather skip a try at Olympic gold in the interest of keeping his lungs relatively clear. Perhaps no event symbolizes the ancient Olympics more than the marathon. The absence of the world's best at these particular Games is highly appropriate and instructive.

However, the most compelling reason for freedom-loving Americans to turn our backs on these Olympics and its sponsors is the repressive, liberty-choking government of China. Many stories written and broadcast over the years have documented the imprisonment of Christians and other religious groups in China - notably the Falun Gong - the astonishingly brutal birth control policies, the silencing of critics - the list is seemingly inexhaustible. The latest outrage is the revocation of a visa  held by 2006 Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, who wished to bring attention to the atrocities in Darfur. Cheek was not calling for a boycott of the Games. Comparisons to the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin staged by you-know-who are quite apt.

Few in media write more eloquently and pointedly about human rights than Jay Nordlinger of National Review. Mr. Nordlinger has been on the case of Beijing's attempts at winning the Olympics for over a decade now, and his latest series of "Impromptus" focus solely on the human rights abuses and police state tactics the Chinese have employed as they relate to these games and in general. If his writings on the subject do not convince you to commence your own Olympic boycott, nothing will.

Mr. Nordlinger cites example after example of representatives of some of these worldwide partners of the Games doing everything they can not to offend Beijing, notably criticizing the protests that threatened to turn the Olympic torch relay into a nightmare for the Chinese Communists. That some CEOs and marketing experts seem to walk on eggshells around the Chinese repressors is abhorrent and demands a response. Had these same CEOs simply declared that they would pull their sponsorship money from the IOC should they award the Games to such a government as China's, the normal blustering of IOC president Jacques Rogge would have become sputtering and he would have caved. China would have received its appropriate rebuke, the back of the hand from the civilized world.

McDonald's, Coke, and the other worldwide partners of these Olympic Games failed to take a principled stand on the basic freedoms no government should impede. They have decided to appease the reds in Beijing in the interest of winning an admittedly vast, untapped market. The least we can do is stand up to them. It will be a quiet stand and probably won't even make a hint of a difference. Yet driving by McDonald's instead of driving thru is the very least we can do to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in China that try to live under the iron boot of their oppressors. Such a protest is not boycotting capitalism. Capitalism is about choices. Certain companies made theirs. We should make ours.

Is this really too much to ask? Eject GE and NBC from your home; curl up with a good book like Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg instead. Give the metaphorical finger to Ronald McDonald. Besides, a Whopper and a Pepsi can be just as satisfying - now more than ever.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com

Few things used to be as pleasurable as my family sitting down under the golden arches with a double quarter-pounder with cheese, a heap of fries and a giant, icy-cold Coca-Cola. Mix the unmitigated glee of a toddler joining the party, Happy Meal chicken nuggets in one hand, Happy Meal toy in the other, and life is good.

Those days are over. McDonald's and Coke -- along with companies like Samsung and General Electric -- are "worldwide partners" of the Olympic Games, more specifically the International Olympic Committee, the rogue group that delivered the economic windfall that hosting an Olympics brings to the police state of China. GE, of course, is the parent company of NBC, the network broadcasting the Games. GE is the employer of Matt Lauer, who has already further discredited himself and his profession before the competition even begins by claiming on "Today" that the Chinese people  are a lot happier living under Communist rule than Americans living in a democratic republic.

The Olympics have long been a joke. The Games of the kids from Minnesota and Wisconsin getting over on the Soviet professionals on the ice and the sheer domination of the 1984 United States basketball team - made up entirely of amateurs, albeit amateurs named Jordan, Ewing, and Mullin - have given way to NHL and NBA all-star teams from many nations adding more laurels to already-thick resumes. Was it really just 20 years ago that we regularly decried the professional quality of Soviet-bloc athletes going against our college and high school amateurs? Now the conundrum is choosing between LeBron's USA jersey and Kobe's USA jersey. Winners of sprints and relays have hardly crossed the tape when speculation begins as to whether they are on the juice and the clock begins ticking on how long it will be before their medals are confiscated.

Television coverage of the Olympics has been reduced to Bob Costas looking earnest when introducing sappy mini-documentaries on athletes that are more appropriate to the Oxygen or Lifetime networks. This is all shown in lieu of actual competition. When events are shown, they are voiced over by commentators who seemingly have no idea what is happening in front of them. This is not to say that there are no longer dramatic moments full of genuine emotion and pride during the Olympics, moments of breathtaking athletic ability demonstrated in front of the world. But those have long been overshadowed by everything else, especially this year.

The Beijing Games of 2008 are quickly turning into the biggest howler of all, even apart from the dreadful government that oversees the farce. Chinese officials have worked assiduously to clean the air they have long polluted in time for the Games - banning cars, banning smoking. Amazingly enough, the government has not yet banned residents from exhaling outdoors. This strategy has worked so well that American cyclists showed up in China wearing masks. The world's preeminent marathoner decided he'd rather skip a try at Olympic gold in the interest of keeping his lungs relatively clear. Perhaps no event symbolizes the ancient Olympics more than the marathon. The absence of the world's best at these particular Games is highly appropriate and instructive.

However, the most compelling reason for freedom-loving Americans to turn our backs on these Olympics and its sponsors is the repressive, liberty-choking government of China. Many stories written and broadcast over the years have documented the imprisonment of Christians and other religious groups in China - notably the Falun Gong - the astonishingly brutal birth control policies, the silencing of critics - the list is seemingly inexhaustible. The latest outrage is the revocation of a visa  held by 2006 Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, who wished to bring attention to the atrocities in Darfur. Cheek was not calling for a boycott of the Games. Comparisons to the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin staged by you-know-who are quite apt.

Few in media write more eloquently and pointedly about human rights than Jay Nordlinger of National Review. Mr. Nordlinger has been on the case of Beijing's attempts at winning the Olympics for over a decade now, and his latest series of "Impromptus" focus solely on the human rights abuses and police state tactics the Chinese have employed as they relate to these games and in general. If his writings on the subject do not convince you to commence your own Olympic boycott, nothing will.

Mr. Nordlinger cites example after example of representatives of some of these worldwide partners of the Games doing everything they can not to offend Beijing, notably criticizing the protests that threatened to turn the Olympic torch relay into a nightmare for the Chinese Communists. That some CEOs and marketing experts seem to walk on eggshells around the Chinese repressors is abhorrent and demands a response. Had these same CEOs simply declared that they would pull their sponsorship money from the IOC should they award the Games to such a government as China's, the normal blustering of IOC president Jacques Rogge would have become sputtering and he would have caved. China would have received its appropriate rebuke, the back of the hand from the civilized world.

McDonald's, Coke, and the other worldwide partners of these Olympic Games failed to take a principled stand on the basic freedoms no government should impede. They have decided to appease the reds in Beijing in the interest of winning an admittedly vast, untapped market. The least we can do is stand up to them. It will be a quiet stand and probably won't even make a hint of a difference. Yet driving by McDonald's instead of driving thru is the very least we can do to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in China that try to live under the iron boot of their oppressors. Such a protest is not boycotting capitalism. Capitalism is about choices. Certain companies made theirs. We should make ours.

Is this really too much to ask? Eject GE and NBC from your home; curl up with a good book like Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg instead. Give the metaphorical finger to Ronald McDonald. Besides, a Whopper and a Pepsi can be just as satisfying - now more than ever.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com