Outsports.com has just published a story that there are only six out athletes so far -- that we know of -- who are competing in Beijing. This figure is sharply down from the 11 who competed openly in Athens 2004 across a whole spectrum of sports from tennis to equestrian. Nobody knows for sure why this drop has happened -- Jim Buzinski of Outsports ponders a number of reasons. To that list, I would add that out athletes might have felt nervous about trying to compete openly in a country where gay activists and people with HIV are still harassed by the government, where waves of arrests have been going on for many months.
Elsewhere on the human rights front, it's also disappointing to see the Beijing Olympics organizers veering back into gender testing -- which was abandoned as a general policy in 1999 by the IOC.
The present IOC policy is for individuals to be tested if there is a serious question. The Chinese are exploiting this loophole for all it's worth, and their maneuver is not surprising. They are applying Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" to international sports in a classic way.
The Beijing government wants to win piles of medals and prove their superiority as an emerging world power. As the host country that sets policy for these Games, they have surely scoured their own women's team, to make 100 percent sure that all karyotypes conform to standard XX and will pass the test. However, their sudden late announcement that they will test any woman whose appearance raises a red flag is now going to place other countries at a psychological disadvantage. These countries have already selected their teams, and some of those selectees might not pass the test. So it will constitute a pre-competition strategy, a psychological pre-emptive strike, for Chinese authorities to announce that they will summon any woman athlete they choose for testing. There are surely some women athletes out there who never imagined, when they made their Olympic teams, that they might have to pass that dreaded test down the road. Even if that individual does pass the test, her psyche may be jarred and she may not perform as well. We have to imagine the woman's anxiety, through several days of waiting for test results.
Either way, a medal prospect who can be knocked out of competition by the gender test, or rattled enough to miss making the podium, will ensure more medals for the Chinese.
"The Art of War" was written 2500 years ago by a brilliant Chinese general named Sun Tzu, who probably lived during the Warring States period (403-221 BCE). It's a study of military strategy and realpolitik whose principles can be applied to any non-military situation, and it's one of the most influential pieces of thinking ever written. No matter who governed their country, whether emperors or communist leaders, the Chinese have never stopped living by "The Art of War." Western military leaders who flouted the principles noted by Sun Tzu (Hitler was one, when he invaded Russia) always went down in defeat. Any nation who goes up against China without doing their Sun Tzu homework is probably in for a shock, whether it's in war or free trade...or sports.
Sun Tzu wrote, "Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night,
and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt." Sounds like the Olympic Games to me.