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U.S. must participate in Beijing '08 games
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We are 113 days away from the opening ceremonies of the games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China.

Yet, some believe that the United States and other countries should boycott them due in part to the Chinese government's stand on human rights.

I say, let the United States participate in the Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) knew what it was getting into when it was awarded the games to China in 2001.

Human rights activists hoped that China would show the world their government would comply on an international stage concerning their human rights issues. However, up until now, China has not held up its end of the bargain.

Athletes should not be penalized for the sake of political turmoil after sacrificing four years of hard work to participate in these games.

Let us not repeat the same mistake after former president Jimmy Carter ordered the U.S. Olympic team to boycott the games in Moscow in 1980, with the Soviet Union retaliating by boycotting the games in Los Angles in 1984.

It wasn't fair for the cold war and political nonsense to keep these great athletes at home; what a complete waste.

The vision of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic movement, was to blend sports with culture and education. De Coubertin had no intentions of drawing political or social issues of any kind as a distracting focus to these games.

I've learned to embrace the concept of the Olympic Movement when the games of the XXVI Olympiad (the Centennial Games) were held in Atlanta 12 years ago.

So, I visited downtown for the first time as the second day of the games was getting underway. And as I got off the MARTA train at the Peachtree Center station, I stood in complete awe, "the entire world is here and I am part of one of the greatest international sporting events in history."

Each person I encountered welcomed me with a warm smile, and the atmosphere was filled with excitement and joy.

Hanging out at Centennial Olympic Park, I had the distinct pleasure of making acquaintances with different people from all over the world, as we celebrated the greatness of the human spirit together as one.

But sadly, a terrorist bomb exploded in the park, killing two and injuring hundreds. That single event on that particular evening was reminiscent of the 1972 games in Munich, when Pakistan terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes.

I returned to Olympic park the following day, and found the atmosphere was transformed into caution and fear. For a brief moment, I understood what people felt like whom live with terrorism on a daily basis, and the feeling is indescribable and utterly helpless.

Yet the games once again brought me back into a positive perspective.

Remember Michael Johnson? Wearing his golden track shoes, Johnson smashed the world record in the 200 meters and the 400 meters in the men's track and field. And we watched him drape the American flag over his shoulder and jog around the field victoriously, waving to the crowd on that warm summer night.

His performance made me realize that no matter what acts of terror or political conflict a country has cannot stop the spirit of what the Olympic Games are all about. In fact, the best way an athlete can make a political statement is by winning a medal.

Boycotting Beijing will not solve a problem that has been going on before, and will continue after the games are over.

Let the games be what it was meant to be. Let the games promote the very best by way of athletic competition.

After all, it's only fair that we keep it that way.

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