When President Bush said he was attending the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games despite China’s misdeeds in the international arena, he said it is because the Olympics are about sports, not politics.
Did anyone buy that? We like to think that the Olympics are a time for the world to come together despite political differences, but there is a reason China is striving to dominate the gold medal count. It has nothing to do with the Chinese athletes themselves but rather serves as proof that China is eligible to be a strong world power. At the time of writing, the United States and China are tied for 79 total medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. China and the United States are vying for superpower status on the gymnastics floor, in the boxing ring, and on the field hockey turf.
But what about everyone else? Sure, it is impressive that Michael Phelps topped the medal record with 8 gold medals in swimming, but what about the two gold medals won by Ethiopian runners? Phelps has all of the best trainers and best technologies available to him, as well as a full-time training schedule that allows him to focus only on winning Olympic gold. Is it not far more impressive that Kenya has received 8 medals , that Zimbabwe has received 4, Ethiopia 3, Cameroon 1, South Africa 1, Morocco 1, and Togo 1?
What is in fact most impressive is that ALL of Sub-Saharan Africa is participating in the Olympic games and the only countries on the continent who did not send athletes are Algeria and Tunisia. But how many of those Olympians have their stories replayed on primetime television? All of the glitz and glory of the Olympics entice us, as viewers, to cheer for our home country, instilling a sense of nationalism that is really more fitting in political discourse than in sport. As Americans, we cheer for the Shawn Johnsons, not the Francoise Mbango Etones .
But what if the Olympics could be about lifting the image and talent of developing countries into the spotlight? After all, if the U.S. and China are going to make the Olympics a political event, Africa should too. It could be a wonderful opportunity to show the world that Africa is deserving of equitable development aid, fair trade policies, debt relief, and investments in education and jobs. Rather than deciding on the next world superpower at the Olympic Games, lets decide on how best to support the people of Africa.
AFJN congratulates the African Olympians who have conquered innumerable odds to be present in Beijing. We especially congratulate those who, by their talent and strength, have shown the world that Africa is also deserving of Olympic medals. Furthermore, we encourage you, as a reader, to promote an Olympic story that truly is about bringing our international community together for the common good.
African Olympic Medals – 2008 Games
Gold     Silver    Bronze   TOTAL
Kenya                  2          4          2           8
Zimbabwe            1          3          0           4
Ethiopia                2          1          0           3
Cameroon            1          0          0           1
South Africa         0          1          0           1
Morocco               0          0          1           1
Togo                    0          0          1           1
By Beth Tuckey