The news out of London and Paris over the last few days regarding the disruption of the Olympic torch seems to be a surprise only to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Protests over China’s human rights record and the recent crackdown in Tibet have led to scenes of near-chaos around the torch. In Paris, the torch was snuffed out no less than five times and trundled aboard a bus to escape the demonstrations. Eventually the relay was abandoned. Similar scenes are forecast for San Francisco and other stops. The IOC has as usual, dug in its heels, saying the Olympics are a “sporting event, not a political one”.

Well, the IOC needs to pull its collective head out of its collective ass. Of course the Olympics are a political event. They always have been. In 1936 with the war drums beating, Jessie Owens, a black American of all things, beat the pants off the Aryan Nation at Munich. And right in front of Herr Hitler. And what about the U.S. and U.S.S.R. refusing to attend each other’s games in the late 70’s – early 80’s? In fact, the whole concept of athletes competing as nations makes the games political. Some countries make huge investments in their teams in terms of training, equipment, concessions, etc. Isn’t that political?

Sadly, as the murder of Israeli athletes in 1972 proved, many groups with a grudge to nurse try to use the Olympics to further their own ends. No doubt this is how the Chinese see the current squabble about Tibetan protests. But nobody as far as I can tell is protesting the games themselves, or anyone competing in it. Their beef seems to be allowing a country that has such a poor record regarding their own citizens, as well as those in outlying provinces that may or may not actually be a part of said country, to host games of sport and fellowship among peoples of the world. It all seems a bit hypocritical. So for the IOC to bury its head in the sand again just makes them look ignorant. Insisting the Olympics are not political is wishful thinking at best, downright stupid at worst.

It’s too bad that the athletes who take part are as aways, the ones caught in the middle. But by this time next year, the games will be a distant memory. The medals and records will be noted, the world will have forgotten about the protests, and nothing in China will have changed one bit. And we all know it, don’t we?