Saturday, April 12, 2008

Should Aamir Khan Run For The Olympics Torch?

Is it right for Indian actor Aamir Khan to run the Olympics torch even as Tibetans have requested him to stay away and show his support to their cause?

It's a tricky and delicate issue. Tibetans in exile and living in India for years and decades have requested Bollywood superstars Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan to desist from running the Olympic torch and therefore show their support to the cause of Tibetans. China, one of the world's few communist regimes rules Tibet. Tibetans all over the world erupted in protests (demanding indepandance) in March 2008 and violent clashes between the two sides have resulted in over 200 (the actual figure could be multiples of this) Tibetans getting killed and many others captured and imprisoned by the oppressive and brutal dictatorship of the Chinese regime. Tibetans all over the world have boycotted the Beijing Olympics, scheduled to start in August 2008. So should the two Indian superstars also ban the Olympic torch running ceremony?

I have two observations on this issue. First, what is the connection between Olympics and China? And are Tibetans right in connecting the two? Olympics, as we all know, is a premier sporting event that takes place once in every four years. It's a gala event where various sports are played by sportsperson all over the world, who come together in one village for a period of almost a month, and represent their country and try and win medals - gold, silver and bronze. Representing one's own country at an event that's attended by millions of people from across the globe and watched on TV by a further trillion - the viewership could again be in multiples I can only hazard a guess - is a privilege that few sportsperson would want to miss. Plus, the elusivity of this event, as it's played only once in four years. It's like the Cricket or Football world cup. A gold medal on a sport-person's resume golds a lot of weight and prestige and he/she is forever known as an Olympics gold medalist. This is an honour that every sportsperson wants to have. Hence, expecting sportsperson to miss this event is not fair. Especially, considering the fact that a sportsperson plays in the Olympics to win a medal and not to show support to the host country in its day-to-day affairs.

Secondly, why is Aamir Khan chosen to run the Olympics torch? Is he a sportsperson? No. He's just a Bollywood actor. But Olympics is a sporting event and not a film event like Oscars or something. Where are our sportsperson and why were they not invited to run the torch?

Let's deal with the second issue first; Aamir Khan. While the whole country is debating on whether or not he should run and whose side is he really on when he runs with that torch in his hand, my moot objection is on Bollywood stars running the torch. Who the hell are they to lay their hands on the torch? If playing Olympics is privilege, then running the torch is one too; if not more, then almost. I am sure many sportsperson would give their one eye and one arm to hold that torch - a symbol of world peace and the spirit of sportsmanship. Web reports suggest that Khan is among the six people shortlisted to run the torch. Typically, sportsperson of repute of countries that lie in the torch's route are chosen to run the torch. But we Indians are just fixated with star power aren't we? We do not care about people from other professions, as long as you are from Bollywood, we are ready to sell our souls and even our bodies to your willing, aren't we? So be it a large and equally shameless section of the Indian media proclaiming SRK as the King Khan, Saif Ali Khan the Prince or even Amitabh Bacchan the superstar to fashion designers bending backwards to call upon Bollywood stars to walk the ramp with showstoppers and steal away the thunder from professional and credible models (both designers and models belong to the same fraternity, but still...) who work their asses off day & night to put together a successful show. The shameless media again rears its ugly head as the newspapers the next day are splashed with photos of, say, Shilpa Shetty walking the showstopper at Tarun Tahilliani's show or Ranbir Kapoor in a sherwani blowing kisses to the light of his life in the audience. We Indians are crazy after film stars. Coming back to Beijing Olympics, Coca-Cola seems to be one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics and since Aamir Khan is the brand ambassador of the soft drink giant, he seems to have been shortlisted to carry the torch. But according to me, Aamir Khan has NO place or the right to run the torch. Even though nine out of 10 Indian sportsperson suck, have few and far achievements to boast of and have very low performance standards, they still have the right - way over any Bollywood star - to run the torch.

Ultimately, are Tibetans right in persuading the world to ban the Olympics? while it is every sportsperson right and dream to participate in the Olympics, there's no denying the fact that China will earn a lot of goodwill and good press and relations from the world for staging such a massive event - that for over a month will be the cynosure of the world's eyes - if it turns to be successful. China's message will be clear - we are a strong nation, we are a perfect host and we have the money and the power to pull it off. If Australia and USA can do it, we can also do it, and even better. China already has a new, world-class airport in Beijing ready to be operational by the time Beijing Olympics start and is the world's largest airport. A web report says that China is expected to spend a staggering amount of more than $400 billion through 2010 on infrastructure projects. The 2008 Olympics will cost Beijing about $40 billion, compared to Athens' $12 billion spent on the 2004 Olympics. And the spending doesn't stop in '08, with Shanghai expected to drop $40 billion for the 2010 World Expo and Guangzhou estimating $27 billion for the 2010 Asian Games. China is sure to rake in a lot of moolah from these games and Tibetans would sure like to use this platform to earn the globe's sympathy to the cause of Tibetans who want Independence.

China may be a great country demographically, but it is NOT a democracy. It is a communist country where people don't have freedom of speech. It is repressive to any protests against its administration and everybody knows what happened at Tienanmen Square. It's occupation of Tibet is unlawful and illegal and human rights violation, though rampant in every country, is at its worst in communist countries, such as China. In my opinion, Tibet is absolutely justified in using this as a platform to intensify their agitation when the world is looking at Beijing. But let's also not deny the right of every sportsperson who deserves to play any Olympics and who has waited for four long years to earn a rightful place in the history books.

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