On the IOC and human rights
Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch had a good op-ed in the Post the other day about the Olympics and human rights.
More than a year later, however, it is clear that awarding the 2008 Games to Beijing actually worsened the human rights climate in China.There were many lessons learned with Beijing 2008. First, that the leverage comes before the host city is chosen. The moment the city is chosen, there's little leverage left.
With Chicago's, there was an opportunity for U.S. activists to exert influence -- a rare situation where "what the rest of the world thinks" could influence a domestic issue. Often it's the other way around -- i.e. the extensive European activism against the death penalty in the United States appears to do little, and in at least some cases has been counter-productive. But with Chicago's bid was a chance to force the United States to do right on the world stage (be it on the death penalty, or on accountability for Bush-era torture, or any number of other issues). With a few exceptions (very few) groups failed to take advantage of that opportunity.
Worden touches on another one of the lessons learned from Beijing: that the IOC is currently awful. They aren't doing right; they don't care about human rights for Chinese people or anywhere, some public statements to the contrary.
I thought Worden was going to end up talking about the human rights nightmare that is Rio, but actually she focuses on Sochi, Russia (2012). I forgot about that one. Oy. It's bad and worse.
HRW's proposal is this: that IOC take steps to work on human rights issues directly related to the olympics. Not that IOC would get involved in a host country's human rights generally. But that at least it would do right when it comes to the issues directly around the games -- such as the home demolitions that are all but standard practice. It seems like an awfully reasonable ask.