Opinion | Bruce Butler: Four years and a gold medal ago | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: Four years and a gold medal ago

Four years ago — which equates to 28 dog/COVID years — Silverthorne became “Goldthorne” for a while as the Summit County community celebrated Red Gerard’s gold medal at the Pyeongchang, South Korea, Winter Olympics.

Colorado — and Summit and Eagle counties, in particular — has extensive connections to the Winter Olympics, and we are rightfully proud of our many Olympic alumni. I root for the local Colorado and U.S. Team competitors, but as I have grown older, I want to see athletes win the competition rather than see heartbreaking mistakes eliminate competitors regardless of what country they are from.

I am not advocating for participation medals, but I realize how many hours and years each of the athletes has dedicated to perfecting their sports — most of them in complete obscurity.

Unlike many Americans, I find the winter Olympics riveting viewing for two weeks. Sure, I like to watch the Alpine ski racing and hockey, but I also like to watch the Nordic ski races, the bobsledding, the luge and the biathlon competitions. For some reason, curling makes me want to drink pitchers of beer and eat slices of pizza, but I like watching that, too!

I don’t know any of the competitors’ names, nor will I long remember them, but I appreciate the skill, determination and training that makes them elite athletes, and I know most will receive public attention and recognition only one time in the Olympics — then back to obscurity.

I am not naive enough to think the selection of Olympic host countries is not highly political. Indeed, hosting the games can be prestigious, although many host countries have spent a lot of money for somewhat dubious returns or have experienced outright financial ruin — especially when spectators are banned from the games. Just ask Tokyo. So in future years, we are likely to see more recycled host countries and cities. There is a reason why Colorado voters have rejected ideas of hosting the Olympic games all the way back to the 1970s.

So where am I going with all this?

I am disappointed with many of our federal politicians for weaseling about sending our athletes to Beijing, in the case of the Biden administration, or advocating to withdraw our athletes from the Olympic Games altogether, as many congressional Republicans have done.

For any objective observer, there is no doubt that Chinese President Xi Jinping is a ruthless dictator intent upon world domination and building China into the world’s foremost superpower.

China is not our friend and has a horrific record on human rights and the environment. China exploits workers and ethnic minorities. It steals intellectual property. It has been uncooperative regarding the origins of COVID-19. It has crushed democracy in Hong Kong. It is an imminent threat to freedom and autonomy in Taiwan. The list of problems is long.

To date, the Biden administration’s action has been to refuse to send U.S. diplomats to Beijing during the Winter Games, and a few European countries have joined the diplomatic boycott. That’s fine, although the snarky side of me says the U.S. would be more likely to win concessions from China if we sent Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China and threatened to leave them there!

Does anybody really think President Xi cares about a diplomatic boycott?

There are many ways to take meaningful action against Chinese aggression, so let’s not punish our athletes who have worked for years to have an opportunity to be recognized and rewarded in the Olympics.

Remember Jesse Owens, who dominated the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, called world attention to the talent of African American athletes and defeated Adolph Hitler’s quest to demonstrate Aryan superiority on his home turf? How would history be different if President Franklin Roosevelt had refused to send U.S. athletes to the Berlin games?

If U.S. politicians block our athletes from competing, the Chinese Communist Party will simply say the U.S. was afraid of competing against the Chinese athletes.

To all our U.S. athletes, Godspeed. Let’s show the strength of the U.S. by winning as many gold medals as possible in Beijing. I’ve got my “Goldthorne” sign ready.

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