Why we should mix Politics with Sport

Georgia Lewis 

Image © Morning Calm News

This week, mass laughter has been the overwhelming reaction to the South Korean flag appearing on screen just as the North Korean women’s football team was about to take to the pitch. Cock-ups like this are funny, and are as inevitable at events on the scale of the Olympics as the overreactions from the aggrieved parties. But should North Korea even be allowed to participate in the Games at all?

It is a challenging question because, on one hand, it is a great opportunity for North Korean athletes to see a bit more of the wider world and it can help bridge gaps between the rest of the world and one of the planet’s most secretive nations. Then again, with their constant threats to world peace and internal human rights abuses, should they be banned to send a strong message to the government that it should not treat its own people so appallingly and expect to be part of the global community? But if we exclude North Korea from the Games, do we also exclude China? Bahrain? Saudi Arabia? The US, even? Hell, should my own country, Australia, be excluded as a protest against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, including children? Pretty soon, we’d end up with a very small Olympics indeed. The modern Olympic movement has grown since 1896, when just 14 countries competed, to become a global event – regardless of what you might think of the billions of taxpayer pounds spent on the games, the principle of bringing the countries of the world together is not all bad.

But to try and separate politics from any sport, let alone the Olympics is naive in the extreme. And again, this isn’t always a bad thing. Jesse Owens’ magnificent achievement at the 1936 Berlin Games made a mockery of Hitler’s ludicrous and lethal Aryan master race ideology. The image from the 1968 Games in Mexico City of Men’s 200m gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos with their heads down and fists raised in the black power salute is one of the most powerful protest images of all time. In 1980, the Moscow Games was marred by a 61-nation boycott led by the US over the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan – a boycott that looks rather bizarre in light of the polarising US presence in the Middle East to this day.  Read more of this post

Tuition Fees: Human Rights and Wrongs

Laurel

Image © Monika Ciapala

A few weeks ago the Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a speech at the Foreign Office, declared: “As a government we understand how important it is that we not only uphold our values and international law, but that we are seen to do so.

This may have come as a surprise to those who are acquainted with the UN International Covenant on Economic Cultural and Social Rights. The Covenant, signed by the UK, states in Article 13 that: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

The UK Government appeared puzzled by this and, in a submission to the UN Committee in 2007, wondered:

whether this paragraph is intended to mean equal access to higher education by: (i) the progressive introduction of free higher education, OR (ii) the progressive introduction of free education up until the point at which higher education commences. The Government’s position on financial provision for higher education students would conflict with interpretation (i) because the Government does not provide free higher education. However, higher education is equally accessible to all in the UK on the basis that fees are not charged at the outset but paid by means of loans at a later stage in the student’s life. If interpretation (i) is correct, the Government believes other State parties (such as Australia and New Zealand) would also have problems with the implementation of Article 13(2)(c). Read more of this post

Why the left shouldn’t defend Cuba

 Peter Bolton

Heroes of the Left? Image © a-birdie

Since the 1959 communist revolution in Cuba, several left-wing commentators have spoken favorably about the Castro regime. In the world of entertainment, for instance, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and Michael Moore have all made gestures of praise toward the island’s political leadership. Moore’s 2007 film Sicko showered praise onto the Cuban healthcare system while both Penn and Stone have commended the Castro regime and visited the island to meet with Communist Party officials, in Stone’s case to research for a documentary film.

Details of Cuba’s authoritarianism have come back into the public consciousness recently following news reports about the decision by Raul Castro to liberalize the island’s property laws. The move might be taken by some to be evidence of the regime’s reform-minded tendencies but though the policy changes are to be welcomed, reading the details about the plight of the Cuban people shows how misguided it is to defend Cuba as a bastion and exemplar of left-wing ideas.

  Read more of this post

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