Despite the synthesized soundtrack, Chariots of Fire is a very inspirational movie. Eric Liddell's story of faith, dedication, and sportsmanship embodies the best of both the Olympic and the human spirit.
You can bet that if he were alive today, Liddell wouldn't participate in the Beijing Olympics.
That human rights-violating China even nominated itself as an Olympic host city is galling; the IOC's serf-like acquiescence to the idea is just gravy: Yes, China. Anything you say, China. Of course you can host the Olympics, China. Now will you keep exporting those plastic laurel leaves?
Back in 1924, Liddell put the world on notice by refusing to run the 100 meters at the Paris Olympics. It's not that he didn't want to run. The 100-meter race took place on a Sunday, and Liddell couldn't run on a Sunday.
The Lord's Day, you see. (Liddell won the gold in the 400 later.)
If Liddell were here, he wouldn't be running in the 2008 Games-- not on a Sunday or any other day. If he set foot in China, he'd be arrested, detained, imprisoned, and deported.
The son of missionaries, Liddell became a missionary himself and returned to his birth country (Tianjin in North China) to work and teach. He braved mortal danger and was ultimately imprisoned, enslaved, and starved. He died in 1945 in a work camp on his native soil.
Four years later China expelled and subsequently banned Christian missionaries. The ban still holds, and "official" Chinese churches are affiliated with and regulated by the government. Many Chinese Christians meet secretly, braving interrogation, imprisonment, and often death.
Chapter 5 of the Olympic Charter reads: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas." How convenient. China can blast water cannons all day and the IOC won't bat an eye.
Won't we ever learn?
Back in 1936 when our own Jesse Owens (bless him!) made Adolf Hitler look like a buffoon, the British Olympic committee ordered their soccer team to give a Nazi salute before a game. You can look up the picture.
Not the Olympics' proudest moment, yet we are doomed to repeat it.
It's not enough to prohibit demonstrations and propaganda in Beijing; such "unsportsmanlike" conduct must be preemptively curtailed.
But how? By forcing athletes to sign statements promising not to criticize the Communist Chinese government at all. Reportedly the British Olympic Committee has forced their athletes to sign these statements already, under penalty of expulsion from the Olympic team.
Lads, don't forget to leave that Bible at home, too. It's banned, you know. Yes, Olympic organizers have put the Bible on the list of items athletes are prohibited from bringing to Beijing. (I haven't seen the whole list, but Catcher in the Rye and Common Sense must there somewhere.)
If an athlete isn't Christian, not to worry. Mosques have been purged, imams vetted, and those war-mongering Buddhists have been, ahem, contained.
No, Eric Liddell wouldn't run in the upcoming Olympics. He would do what everyone who values liberty and humanity should do: he would decry these Olympics to all who would listen.
To date, no Eric Liddell has shown up to denounce China. No president, no prime minister, no King or Queen has done more than criticize Beijing's smog problem. No athlete has refused to compete unless the Bible or Koran is packed in a carry-on bag (only marathoner Haile Gebrselassie refused: smog). No torchbearer has refused to set foot in Tibet to protest its occupation.
The Olympic Spirit isn't about competition; it's about the best of humanity, the triumph of mankind over adversity, a sense of fair play and sportsmanship that can't otherwise exist. It's not supposed to be about most favored trade nation status.
Grease up those elbows. It looks like we've got a salute coming (and I don't mean Black Power).