1. The IOC has killed the spirit of Sydney (The Age)
By PAUL HAYWARD Published in "The Age" - Melbourne, Australia Tuesday 17 July 2001

The spirit of Sydney expired last Friday night. Less than a year after Australia revived the Olympic ideal, the 2008 Games were awarded to a regime that executes people in football stadiums.

There were no preconditions, no threat to withdraw the gift if China's worsening assault on civil liberties is not reversed.

If the 20th century taught us one thing, it was never to endorse state-sponsored murder, torture and repression. This is what those arch-pragmatists at the International Olympic Committee did in Moscow.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the outgoing president, was granted his last wish by a membership who are either servile to their leader or much too willing to play political games with people's lives. You scratch my back, I'll put a dagger in theirs.

The decision offends on many levels. It is a denial of the IOC's own charter on "fundamental ethical principles" and sends a clear message to the perpetrators of the Tiananmen Square massacre that the rest of the world is willing to look the other way.

Worse, it rewards tyranny with the greatest sporting and cultural event on earth. Physically, Beijing will be transformed, but will the cause of religious and political freedom be advanced one inch when the IOC limos pull out of town?

Will the right to life be advanced? For this is the most pressing issue in a country where dissent is stamped on, protesters are tortured and herded into "re-education through labor" camps, or lined up and shot.

All through the bidding process, the IOC tried to peddle the lie that it is a non-political organisation not authorised to meddle in the affairs of state.

This from a body that persuaded the two Koreas to march together at the opening ceremony in Sydney, and invited a delegation from East Timor to join the parade.

To ignore Tibetan protesters trying to protect their ancient culture from systematic destruction was a terrible affront, as was the IOC's failure to encourage a debate on human rights, that amorphous phrase which, in this context, means the right not to become one of the imprisoned or the disappeared.

Those IOC members who opposed Beijing's bid on moral grounds must feel they have become part of the world's most Machiavellian club.

While the machinery of government becomes ever more oppressive, according to Amnesty International, economic liberalisation in China is now well advanced. Herein lies a clue. Would the IOC, which regards itself as a brand, a marketing juggernaut, have been so eager to burst into Beijing had its big corporate backers been told they were as unwelcome as a Falun Gong gathering or a student demonstration?

The shamelessness of this decision is breathtaking; more so, even, than the Salt Lake City bungs-for-votes scandal. All sorts of hidden agendas were plainly at work, all sorts of dubious alliances formed.

The tragedy is that a chance has been missed to force change on Beijing.

All the good work of Sydney is undone.