For India the Beijing Olympics may prove to be the most jinxed in history. Ignore the slipshod violation of the dress code by athletes during the opening ceremony. The rot started sooner at home. One of the very few medal prospects, weightlifter Monika Devi, was debarred after failing a dope test. Her vehement protests went unheeded. She alleged that political motives were working against her. Subsequently she passed the test and was cleared. She belatedly flew to Beijing. The Chief de Mission of the Indian team told the press, 'You cannot stop anyone from coming, but her entry will not be accepted.' The secretary of the weightlifting federation said: 'I think her case has proved that the system is still in place here.' Does it? The Indian authorities failed to get her entry to the competition. One hopes she will sue the sports authorities for whopping damages.
Even this fiasco pales into insignificance before the gaffe committed by Sonia Gandhi. Beijing treated India with supreme contempt by not inviting either the President or the Prime Minister to the opening ceremony. Instead Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul were invited. Heads of state in other countries after announcing desire to boycott the games were cajoled into coming. That includes President Sarkozy of France. Sonia Gandhi is the president of the Congress party. She holds no official post. It seems Gandhi's personal vanity triumphed over national self-respect. Not only was she exclusively invited from among Indian leaders but China's Communist Party signed an MOU with the Congress party establishing close relations and frequent exchanges. One hopes the Congress realizes what it is getting into.
A year ago on October 22 2007 this scribe wrote a spoof comparing the Berlin Olympics in 1936 with Beijing's Olympics in 2008. It turns out that the similarity is greater than imagined. Nina Khrushchev, the late Soviet ruler's daughter, wrote an article saying that "both aesthetically and politically, the parallel (between the Beijing and Berlin Olympics) is hardly far-fetched." She pointed out Beijing's choice of Albert Speer Jr., the son of Hitler's favorite architect and designer of the Berlin Olympics, as the master designer of the Beijing Games. The son's designs are inspired by his father's work. Is Beijing's economic model inspired by Hitler?
This scribe thoughtlessly boasted that he was the first to draw a parallel between the Berlin and Beijing Olympics. Someone pointed out that he may have been the first in India, but there must be "thousands before him in the west". It was pointed out that many in the west knew more about Hitler than we possibly could. One accesses only the leading US and UK newspapers. One read about no such parallel there. Perhaps European newspapers were full of the similarity between Hitler and contemporary China.
People in the west know a lot about Hitler. Do they know as much about contemporary China? Obviously they must. So one wonders why they are so mute when it comes to criticizing China. In an article last week by Johann Hari in London's The Independent, the writer did point out the blots in China's system, and noted the silence of the western media about them. There was no reference of course to China's similarity to Nazi Germany. In fact China's system seems more stable and therefore more formidable than Hitler's. It does not rest on the whims of an individual dictator. It is run like a modern corporate with norms of succession rigidly followed. To call China's system socialistic is of course pure blasphemy.
Hitler's approach to ecology, to architecture and to city planning was far ahead of his times. The welfare he delivered to workers and to ordinary people in Germany was far superior to what China delivers to the bulk of its citizens. But consuming hatred drove Hitler mad. His treatment of the Jews, of Gypsies and of political dissidents was the most monstrous crime of the 20th century.
Contemporary China has not so far equalled Hitler's Germany. But its dictatorship does remain absolute. Its tendencies endanger its own and the world's future. Will China's rulers learn from history? Or will they allow absolute power to corrupt them absolutely?