World javelin champion Špotáková criticizes Beijing games

10-04-2008

There’s no talk of any Czech athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics, but some members of the team have expressed reservations about the games being held in China. One of the Czech athletes with the strongest views on the matter is world javelin champion Barbora Špotáková:

Barbora Špotáková, photo: Ludovic Péron, CC BY 3.0Barbora Špotáková, photo: Ludovic Péron, CC BY 3.0 “I was really upset when they were in the process of deciding where the Olympics should be. That was the time for all of these protests, not now. Because it is all already prepared, and all of these sportspeople are now looking forward to it, and looking forward to competing with other sportspeople from all over the world. So I’m not happy about, I’m really not happy about it.”

The Czech Athletics Federation has told individual athletes not to protest, you aren’t, then, planning to join in with any of the protests?

“No, of course I’m not satisfied with the way China treats the environment, or with the social problems which exist in China, but I’m not going to protest now, because I am a sportsperson, and I am going to the Olympics to compete in my sport. And I don’t want to mix politics and sport, I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

Can I ask you what exactly your problem is with the Olympics being held in China? What is it that makes you most unhappy about the decision to hold the games there?

Security men tackle Green Party activist Sylvain Garel, third left at rear, as he tries to approach Stephane Diagana, right, the 400-meter world champion in 1997, as he carries the Olympic torch at the beginning of its relay from the first floor of the Eiffel tower in Paris, photo: CTKSecurity men tackle Green Party activist Sylvain Garel, third left at rear, as he tries to approach Stephane Diagana, right, the 400-meter world champion in 1997, as he carries the Olympic torch at the beginning of its relay from the first floor of the Eiffel tower in Paris, photo: CTK “Well, I think that the Olympics just shouldn’t be held in an undemocratic country, because the whole idea behind the Olympics is at odds with that. The idea of the Olympics is to connect people, and sport, with good things. And it is not to mix politics up with sport.”

What about Czech politicians, do you think it is right for them to go to the Olympics, because they are not sportspeople and they have the choice? And this is something which the cabinet is currently debating.

“If you don’t agree with the Olympics being held in China, and you are a politician, then you should not go to the games there. Because that would be to go evidently against your own opinion, which is not a good idea.”

Do you think that all of this recent uproar surrounding the Olympic Games being held in China has at least been good for drawing attention to some of the human rights abuses taking place in China?

“That is true, and it is a really good opportunity – but now I’m saying the opposite thing! It is an opportunity to show these problems, maybe it will highlight these problems, but they need to then be solved afterwards. And this should not be mixed up with the Olympics. These things need to remain separate – and they do need to be solved afterwards.”

To what extent do you think that sports and politics should mix, and are you unhappy with how much they have been mixed recently because of this question of whether the Olympics should be held in China?

“Well for me, a good way of seeing it is this: I am a sportsperson and I am going there for sport. But I am able to say what I think. It is my protest to say that I don’t agree with how they treat the environment, I don’t agree with their social politics in China, and I have issues with the Tibet question. I can say that, that is my right as a sportsperson.

“But I will go there and compete because I also value that the Chinese people have put a lot of preparation into the Olympics. I appreciate that there must be a lot of people who have put a lot of work into this. And I also appreciate the intention of getting the whole world together in China, and showing China to the world. And China is celebrating sport.”

10-04-2008