The Torch Is Under Threat


The Olympic torch relay has been in the headlines a lot recently, unfortunately, however, for all the wrong reasons. Pro-Tibetan protesters have been such a menace during the relay’s first two stops at London and Paris, that doubts have been raised to conduct similar relays for future Olympics.

I believe strongly that China should hold peaceful talks with the Dalai Lama to sort out the issue, and I strongly believe that Tibetans have the right to voice their concerns. Yet, I cannot fathom the scenes that we have seen in the recent days (a protester tried to snatch away the torch in Paris, and doubts have been cast over whether the Relay would continue). The Olympics are a global spectacle. In no other event do so many step up to represent their countries. The number of participating countries exceeds the United Nations’ member nations (203 versus 193). Right from the birth of the Ancient Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC, sportsmen have performed for nothing more than pride. Since time immemorial, an Olympic medal (or an olive wreath, as in the Ancient Olympics) has stood as one of the greatest achievements possible.

The Greeks wrote poems to immortalize a winner’s triumph. And here we have a political issue threatening to overshadow a grand festival. Alas, this, too, has always been the case for the Olympics. Boycotts have long been a part of the Games, the first of which was in 1956, when six countries refused to participate over the Soviet Union’s suppression of the Hungarian uprising and the Suez crisis. 1976 saw several African countries withdrawing their athletes after the Olympics had begun since the International Olympic Committee did not heed their calls to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had toured Apartheid-stricken South Africa. 1980’s Moscow Games were held without the Eastern Bloc countries while 1984’s Los Angeles games missed the presence of the Soviet and many other communist nations.

Thankfully, so far no country has shown any intent of boycotting the Beijing Games. Those calling for a boycott must understand how hard the participants work for the Games. To them, it is a matter of prestige. For many it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. In case of a boycott, they miss out on that opportunity, for no fault of their own. The Olympics are only being held in China, but they do not own it. Like I said earlier, it’s a global spectacle, and the whole world is a part of it. The world does know of Tibet’s plight, and many people are doing their little bit. is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. Recently, more than 1.6 million people signed a petition to the Chinese president calling for him to open dialogue with the Dalai Lama (If you wish to sign the petition, visit

Trying to snatch the Olympic torch would not invoke sympathy in anyone’s heart. If you are asking for the world to get behind you to bring peace in your land, the protests themselves should be peaceful. I am hopeful that this was a one-off occasion, and that it should not harm the protester’s campaign. Let the Torch Relay go on, peacefully.

Raveesh Bhalla

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