One Olympics, many dreams

The Beijing Olympics is going to start in only a few hours and I am extremely excited. Among all the things, it’s the opening ceremony that I’m excited about. I have big faith that they will put up a spectacular show. In fact, I almost gave in to a sneak view of it, but decided not to. Besides the fact that I don’t think it was very nice of SBS to secretly film portions of it and broadcast, I just didn’t want to let it spoil for me.

By the way, I understand that a range of political issues are addressed around this Olympics. I’m not intending to engage with the debate whether or not the Olympics is one thing and politics is another. That said, I happened to read a paper recently titled “Democratic Transition and Institutional Crafting: The South Korean Case” by Saxer (2003). I might have made it sound like reading it was accidental. Well, it kind of was. I know I was gonna read it anyway at some point, but a printout of the paper was curiously tumbled into my hand-carry luggage when I was flying home early last month – as if it was a sign that I should read it and chew it over during the dozen hours’ flight. Anyway, what I found particularly interesting in the paper was the following bit.

At the same time the government realized that continued rebellion in the streets could cause the International Olympic Committee to move the Olympic Games scheduled to begin in summer 1988 from Seoul. This would have meant a serious loss of ‘face’ for the government, and for Chun Doo-hwan personally, and had to be prevented at all costs.

I thought I’d read my fair share of literature on South Korea’s democratic transition in 1987, but this was the first one telling me that the 1988 Seoul Olympics had something to do with it. However, considering the fuss made around the preparation for the event at the time and given the typical Korean ‘keep-the-face’ mentality, it’s not so hard to believe. I’m not speculating anything about the Olympics this time. This post is just, you know, to mention in passing an example showing that the Olympics could actually “promote democracy and human rights” one way or another.


Whoa! The best show I’ve ever watched. Now I can’t help worrying for the next host. I know, I know it shouldn’t be a competition, but it truly was one hard act to follow.


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