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70 Years Later, Why Do We Still Suck Up To Dictators Like Nazi: China Olympics and British Athletes

Posted by Author on February 12, 2008

By DAVID MELLOR, The Daily Mail, UK, Feb 9, 2008-

The British Olympic Association’s squalid attempt to suppress legitimate criticism of the Chinese regime by British athletes – revealed in today’s Mail on Sunday – is a timely wake-up call for all of us who thought sucking up to dictators was something we had left behind in the Thirties.

Perhaps Simon Clegg, the BOA chief executive who has been so vociferous in support of his wretched piece of paper, which could have been drafted by Neville Chamberlain, should pause and consider what effect kow-towing to totalitarian governments had in the run-up to the Second World War: none on the dictators, lasting shame on the appeasers.

On May 14, 1938, in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the English football team were blackguarded by the Foreign Office and the Football Association into giving the “Heil Hitler” Nazi salute before a friendly game with Germany. It was a piece of contemptible cringing rendered even more pathetic and futile because Hitler, who hated sport, didn’t bother to turn up.

In a picture from a German archive never before published in Britain, the England football team give Nazi salutes in Berlin in 1938

(photo: National disgrace: In a picture from a German archive never before published in Britain, the England football team give Nazi salutes in Berlin in 1938/ by the Daily Mail)

But that picture of impressionable footballers obeying orders from mutton-headed apparatchiks went round the world and became a lasting source of shame to this country. This was, after all, just weeks after Hitler had annexed Austria and came at a time when plans for the Final Solution were well advanced.

Was Hitler made more reasonable by that salute, or by the willingness of the world to offer him a massive propaganda boost two years earlier at the Berlin Olympics by turning up without a squeak of protest? Of course not, which leads to some interesting parallels with today.

In 1936, persecution of the Jews was stopped briefly, dissidents were rounded up and kept out of the way and Nazi Germany put on its best face for the Games.

And that is exactly what the Chinese are doing today. They are desperately trying to clean up Beijing and banishing dissidents – men such as 34-year-old Hi Jia, a brave campaigner for human rights who is under house arrest to ensure he doesn’t rock the boat.

And the Chinese government, rattled by the possibility of public criticism from Olympians, has been applying crude pressure to the international community to keep quiet.

“If at each Olympics people stood up and used politics to attack the host nation, where does that leave the Olympic spirit?” argued the official newspaper, The People’s Daily, last month.

This idea that to criticise totalitarianism is a breach of the Olympic spirit is as wretched a perversion of logic as even the Nazis ever attempted. But, pathetic or not, Simon Clegg seems to see it as something we shouldn’t do.

The Chinese have no right to a free ride this summer. And it isn’t just because China isn’t a democracy or that basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are denied to its citizens.

China is a menace to the civilised world for many other reasons, ranging from its support for renegade regimes such as the government of Sudan, who used Chinese weaponry to commit the Darfur massacres, to its shameless emergence as the number one polluter.

The Chinese deserve as much criticism over their contributions to global warming as over their suppression of human rights.

At the rate of more than one a week, dirty coal and lignite-fired power stations are coming on stream. Over the next 20 years, they will create as much pollution as the rest of the world has since the birth of the industrial revolution.

This is a shocking statistic worthy of condemnation anywhere and everywhere. If British athletes feel strongly about that, why shouldn’t they speak out?

Let’s take the interesting case of Zara Phillips. The Prince of Wales has made it clear in a letter to the Free Tibet campaign that he will not allow himself to be used as a propaganda pawn by the Chinese, and will not attend the Games.

If Ms Phillips were to indicate her support for her uncle’s principled stand, will Clegg really carry out his threat and send her home? If so, he might even snatch the Berk of the Year award from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Clegg claims that all he is doing is imposing the principles contained in the Olympic Charter on individual athletes. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

But he’s wrong, not least because no other major country seeks to do the same. They are content to allow their athletes as free people to make up their own minds about what they say or do. Why isn’t that good enough for the motherland of free speech?

It begs a very interesting question. Is Clegg on a frolic of his own or has he been put up to it by the Government? Is appeasement alive and well and answering to the name of Gordon Brown?

Brown, after all, has recently been in China, making ludicrous remarks about the importance of our relationship with the Chinese – and earning the opprobrium of organisations dedicated to freedom for failing to hold the Chinese to account for their appalling human-rights record.

Is this notoriously intolerant man the real reason why Clegg is ready to make a fool of himself? Brown, after all, holds the purse strings for the 2012 Olympics.

Has he told Clegg and the BOA that unless their people toe the line in China, there will be trouble over the cash? I wouldn’t put it past him, would you?

The Brown line on China – that only the trading relationship matters – is patent nonsense. Our exports to China are barely one-fifth of theirs to us, a gap that will widen as industrialisation in China gathers pace.

During his visit Brown claimed: “Tens of thousands of jobs in Britain for British workers can be created by closer co-operation between our two countries.”

Oh really? Will that many forklift-truck drivers be needed to unload Chinese goods at our ports and airports?

Far worse is the assumption that the Chinese can be allowed to dominate world trade without any attention being paid to the development of democracy or the improvement of civil rights.

No thought is being given to the negative impact an unreformed Chinese superpower will have on world stability unless economic improvements are matched by equally profound advances in democratic institutions.

And that problem goes far wider than Brown. The Americans are the worst culprits in encouraging Chinese manufacturing without insisting on anything in return. And that foolhardy desire to reward China for its many bad habits extends to the International Olympic Committee.

They gave the Games to Beijing despite that city being among the most badly polluted in the world. Will a British competitor be sent home for daring to complain about the smog?

Any intelligent athlete will have a lot to think about on that plane to Beijing. And if they choose to voice those thoughts, why shouldn’t they?

If Simon Clegg and the BOA don’t want to end up as despised as those who told our footballers to make Nazi salutes, he and his cronies should put those contracts where they belong. Down the nearest lavatory.

– Original report from Daily Mail: Shameful picture of England squad giving Nazi salute still haunts British sport. Why, 70 years later, do we still suck up to dictators?

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