Tavish Scott: This diplomatic stand-off results in world leaders playing games with human lives
The greatest show on Earth is about to begin. I missed out on tickets so television coverage must suffice, but friends are going and I am green with envy. The passage of the Olympic Torch around Scotland demonstrates a sense of expectation as the Games begin. But should all the world’s athletic nations be taking part?
The calamity of Syria continues every day. Women and children under constant bombardment and paralysed by fear ask the world for help. But at every turn Russia and China stop international action at the United Nations by using their veto in the Security Council. They believe that internal matters such as civil war are for the country itself. They do not want UN military interference. So they ensure that months of ineffective international hand-wringing continue.
No doubt president Putin and leading members of the Chinese politburo will be in London to hob-nob with world leaders. There are many good reasons why sport and politics should be kept apart. When Alan Wells won the 100m in Moscow in 1980 he had to contend with jibes from the top American sprinters who missed those Games saying he was not the fastest man in the world. The USA boycotted Moscow because of USSR military action in Afghanistan. A touch of irony there given US foreign policy. The Soviets inevitably retaliated 4 years later by withdrawing from the Los Angeles Games. So international events do mean nations not competing in the Olympics.
Syrian planes bombed their own people this week. Russia warned president Assad not to use chemical weapons. Putin would be a whole lot more credible with such words if he stopped using his UN veto and facilitated action. China is easier to understand because the rest of the world cannot afford a diplomatic spat with the Eastern Tiger. They hold a very significant proportion of US debt. So pressure from Washington on China over Syria is muted. Just this week the state-owned Chinese oil company bought North Sea oil fields. Thus the Chinese Politburo strategically invests around the world for economic and political reasons.
Is modern foreign policy around the world based on principle or pragmatism? The latter without a shadow of a doubt. If Syria was strategically important enough, and that sounds just so callous, then a world leader somewhere would be demanding action. The Olympic organisers would come under pressure to exclude Russia and China.
So 17 days of sporting action, the emotion of winning and losing, of world records, of the highs and lows of sport will beat any mention of the ghastly reality of Damascus. Russian and Chinese leaders will join prime ministers and presidents to applaud. Maybe over the champagne and canapés some one will be brave enough to suggest action.
• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East