Recalling the spectacular opening of the Beijing Olympics on TV on the evening of August 8, one is struck most of all by the embarrassing contrast between that mind-boggling event and Nepal’s dismal showing in several areas relevant to the Games.
No, I don’t mean in Nepal’s overall athletic performance in the world games – that will only be known after several more days have elapsed. What this columnist refers to here is our sloppy handling of several Olympics-related moves or decisions which cumulatively contributed to tarnishing the country’s international image or reputation, in the age of republicanism.
Let it be recorded that although controversy over the composition and size of the Olympic delegations goes back into the Panchayat era, it never assumed the shape or character of that which has unfolded of late.
To begin the dismal tale, one should start with the scandalous controversy on the very eve of the Games that erupted between the two rival Nepal Olympic Committees that staked their respective claims to take the official Nepali team for the Olympics. Without going into the merits of their individual cases, the unseemly dispute between the two heads, represented by Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan and Rukma Shumshere Rana respectively, tarnished whatever little image this country had retained in the comity of sporting nations.
To make matters greatly worse, the unfortunate contretemps even spilled over to the send-off of the Nepali contingent at Tribhuvan International Airport with protesters from the Rana camp making their final bid to throw in a monkey’s wrench into the works. If one can easily imagine how ridiculous a figure Nepal must have cut on that ground in appropriate international sporting circles, including in the host country China, what made matters infinitely worse was that the Olympics delegation, players and managers, was “led” by former Education and Sports Minister Pradeep Nepal of the UML, with wife in tow.
Having resigned from his position three months or so earlier (a collective decision following the CA election debacle for the UML), Nepal simply did not have the moral right to lead it. The fact that he did, as also that the UML, which is even contemplating the possibility of leading the new government, could not prevent Nepal from doing so is hardly an advertisement of the state of political morality of a party that had tried to restore a modicum of the same by its decision to collectively submit the resignations of all of their ministers in the coalition led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of the NC.
No mention of Nepal and the Beijing Games can be complete if reference is not made to the relentless attempts by Tibetan “refugees”, backed by various interested foreign elements including those of the West, to protest or even attack the Chinese Embassy premises or otherwise portray to the world, via ever-obliging Western media representatives in Kathmandu, that China is repressing its Tibetan people.
Apart from the almost daily anti-Chinese demonstrations in Kathmandu since mid-March, for which tons of money, effort and coordination, were clearly expended, there have been reports of a spurt in anti-Chinese activities in Nepal’s northern areas bordering Tibet, including the imparting of military training to “volunteers” to spread discord or engage in sabotage activities within Tibet.
Indeed, one Maoist news journal even went to the extent of accusing the Dalai Lama’s so-called government-in-exile in Dharmasala in India of brainwashing Nepali children as young as seven years old after luring them from Nepal in the name of education.
Whatever be the veracity or otherwise of those accusations, what is a documented fact is the hue and cry raised by sections of the Nepali media, along with the anti-China international press, when, in complying to Beijing’s request, Nepal suspended Everest expeditions in early May for about a week.
That was deemed necessary for Chinese mountaineers to take the Olympic torch safely to the apex of the world, against the backdrop of worldwide efforts of the anti-China lobby to disrupt similar events, as indeed was attempted in a number of cities around the world.
In the event, the limited “ban” or “suspension” on Everest climbs did not deter scores of expeditions from fulfilling their objective!
The overriding aim was always to undercut the significance of the Beijing Games and tarnish China’s global image or prestige. If that could not be done by preventing the Games itself, or the massive participation of world leaders thereof, then it should to executed by attempting to cloud or sully it by the all-too-familiar and repeated accusation of China’s alleged poor human rights record.
To return to the mainstream of this discussion, however, what climaxed Nepal’s shoddy Olympics participation was the fact that neither the Prime Minister, nor the President thought it necessary to graciously accept China’s invitation for attendance at the Games’ opening ceremony.
Though Prime Minister Koirala could participate at the SAARC summit, in controversial circumstances, and even pay a visit to India a few days earlier, he merely passed on his invite for the Games to President Yadav who in a statement by his secretariat explained that as he would be tied up with the government formation process, he would be unable to fly to Beijing for the much-anticipated world happening.
In the event, as we have seen, the Nepalese delegation was led by a former minister, with the credentials of head of the Olympics Committee being challenged by a rival.
Will the new Prime Minister or the President attend the Closing Ceremony? This will be interesting to watch since rumors are currently afloat the India would be unhappy if that happened, in spite of Sonia Gandhi’s attendance.