There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Olympics boycott to make me feel young again.
My first ever Olympics boycott — that I recall — was of the summer games at Melbourne, Australia, in 1956. They were boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland on account of the USSR’s invasion of Hungary to end the Hungarian Revolt; they were boycotted by the People’s Republic of China because Taiwan got to participate as its own country; and boycotted by Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon because they were still annoyed that the British, Israelis and French had invaded Egypt to get control of the Suez Canal.
Like that had anything to do with sports.
I’m pretty sure at the time I was not caught up on all the political and military events leading to the boycotts. I am sure I didn’t learn what went on in the Suez Canal crisis until two years later. I learned the basics of the Hungarian Revolt and the Soviet invasion of Hungary when I was 12. In the summer of 1957, the maps I had didn’t show any Taiwan. They showed Formosa.
There were boycotts of the Tokyo games in 1964. Then from 1976 through 1988, every Summer Olympics was boycotted by some countries or other, all four games, until finally the Soviet Union came to an end. I suppose after the Soviet Union fell apart a lot of the fun went out of boycotting.
In most cases it seemed like countries were boycotting based on political disputes unrelated to the games. The boycotts centered on Taiwan were exceptions. One year, China would boycott because Taiwan got too much consideration by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The next time, Taiwan would boycott because they were slighted by the IOC.
But more typical was the massive boycott of the Moscow games in 1980, in which the United States organized a boycott by more than 60 countries because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Nothing to do with the IOC. The Soviet Union was probably, in the end, quite happy with missing all those countries’ teams. They took more medals that year than any single country ever has taken in one Summer Olympics.
Even if the United States doesn’t decide to boycott the Beijing winter games this February, there will probably be other countries that will to protest the People’s Republic of China’s treatment of Uyghurs — a Muslim minority group — and of Hong Kong. We’ll see.
Speaking of history, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just went down in the same for delivering the longest, most boring — by all accounts of all witnesses — filibuster speech in the House of Representatives, an institution that has no filibuster rule. He spoke for 8 hours and 38 minutes to keep the Democrats from wrapping up debate on the social policy and climate change bill on Thursday, Nov. 18, so they would have to wait until the next day.
The best comment on McCarthy’s accomplishment I’ve read was this: “It is a feat of epic proportions to speak for 4 hours straight and not produce a single memorable phrase, original insight or even a joke,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, wrote on Twitter. “McCarthy thinks he is a wit but so far he has proved he is only half right.” This is quoted from an article by Jenny Gross in the New York Times. Burn.
McCarthy broke the record set by Nancy Pelosi just three years earlier, of just over 8 hours of nothing memorable said. From what I gather neither of them insisted upon Guinness World Records rules, so they were not allowed to take rest breaks. So, way to go, or not to go, I guess, to both of them? They are examples of motivation and dedication for our nation’s youth of today.
In the late 1980s, a woman told me she wanted to audition me to be her next boyfriend. It turned out what the audition entailed was that I’d have to speak nonstop for at least 8 hours without repeating myself. She picked 8 hours because that was the record set by her previous boyfriend. I was encouraged to speak mainly about myself but I was allowed to digress here and there.
I insisted on something resembling Guinness World Records rules. I asked for a 5-minute bathroom break every 3 hours. She agreed and I was off and running. I repeated myself after hour twelve.
I’ve always felt that qualified me to be a politician.
Dr. Wes is the Real Change Circulation Specialist, but, in addition to his skills with a spreadsheet, he writes this weekly column about whatever recent going-ons caught his attention. Dr. Wes has contributed to the paper since 1994. Curious about his process or have a response to one of his columns? Connect with him at email@example.com.
Read more of the Nov. 24-30, 2021 issue.