Former Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko and current Canadian Olympic paddler Adam Van Koeverden are having a disagreement. Elvis says Canadian Olympic athletes should make a political stand and boycott the Beijing games because of China’s human rights record. Van Koeverden says Stojko should keep his nose out of it. The Olympics are not supposed to be a political event. In fact the point is that in the past, countries which have been at war with each other still sent athletes who competed with honor and resolve on a world stage. Oh ya, those Berlin games had a lot of political meaning, but the athletes still went.
I don’t have a problem at all with Elvis having a point of view and a conviction. But telling other people what to do about his point of view and conviction is a little much. I would much rather hear about what Elvis himself plans to do to make a point about China. Elvis said if he were competing today he would “consider” boycotting. WOW Elvis you are really making a stand here! You can’t even be definitive about a hypothetic? Maybe Elvis will make a strong move to show how much he cares by banning himself from ever using the music from Dragon (the Bruce Lee story) in his routines again? That will teach them!
Funny thing though. Maybe I just missed it, but since it started in 2003 the Cup of China has been on the Grand Prix Figure skating tour and I cant remember Elvis telling Jeffrey Buttle, Joannie Rochette or Emanuel Sandhu to stay home as Canadians of good conscience. See that’s the problem. Once you start telling someone else what their moral code should be, people start looking at yours and nobody can stand up to that scrutiny.
In 1991 Elvis was 6th in the games in Albertville, France and he was 8th in 2002 in Salt Lake. Let’s skip those Olympics and look at the ones where he won something.
Elvis won a silver medal in the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway in 1994. Let’s just think back to some of the things he could have boycotted the games over to make a political statement. War in Sarajevo, massacres in Rwanda, the U.S. sent troops into the Persian Gulf, The Russians attacked the Republic of Chechnya, fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked, Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, Kurt Cobain killed himself, OJ was arrested for allegedly killing his wife and a friend, a MLB players strike and no World Series, Dallas beat Buffalo in the Superbowl, the Rangers beat Vancouver in the Stanley cup and Canadian icon John Candy died. Clearly many, many important things to make a stand over. Elvis went to the games. Guess he didn’t know or care about the other stuff.
In 1998 Elvis went to Nagano, Japan and won a silver medal and I guess he didn’t feel there was anything happening in the world worth making a political statement over. Let’s see what was happening in 1998. There was that Serb/Albanian blood fest in Kosovo, India had 3 atomic bomb tests, Pakistan had 5, Bill Clinton ordered air strikes on Iraq, embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, the Russian economy collapsed, Bill Clinton was accused of doing naughty things in his office, Monica Lewinsky bought a new dress, the Unabomber was sentenced to 4 life sentences, impeachment proceedings began against Clinton and he was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, a gay student in Wyoming was beaten to death in a hate crime, Dow Corning Corporation agreed to a $3.2 billion settlement for tens of thousands of women claiming injury from silicone breast implants. Gene Autry, Sonny Bono and Frank Sinatra all died that year. Plenty to protest there for sure.
It’s like going to a nice restaurant for dinner and complaining to the piano player about your meal. He didn’t cook it or serve it. His job is to play the piano. Adam Van Koeverden’s job is to paddle. If Elvis feels this strongly about it call the IOC. I am sure they’d take the call after all he’s a former Olympian. Maybe stage a hunger protest outside the IOC’s offices or…oops…there I go telling someone what to do. Isn’t that rude of me.
How about this for a deal. Politics and making political or moral stands are very personal things. What is right and true for you may be meaningless to someone else. It doesn’t make them a bad person; it just makes them a person who doesn’t care as deeply about that cause as you do. I have a huge problem personally with China’s human rights record, but I am not going to tell someone else what they should do about it.
So why don’t former Olympians refrain from telling current Olympians how to live their lives and what they are supposed to care about. Elvis is currently still skating, acting, singing, and involved in martial arts and dirt biking according to his website. We will all assume none of those activities will occur in China and I am sure Chinese culture will be the poorer for it.
See you at the rink.