Jul. 16, 2001: As you know by now, the demigods at the International Olympic Committee have awarded the 2008 Olympic Games to that bastion of democracy, Beijing, China.

If you aren’t familiar with the location, it is the home of Tiananmen Square where tanks run over people holding views that differ from the tank commanders’ bosses. Lovely spot.

China’s human rights record hasn’t been – well – spotless. But the IOC is confident that will change once they get the government to stop roughing up members of the Falun Gong spiritual group and focus on the Games. After all, the Olympic poobahs held the 1936 Games in Germany and we all know what a tremendous impact that had on world peace. Same with the Winter Games in Sarejevo in 1984.

But China does have some positives to offer. For one thing, they aren’t real big on dissension. I am going to offer to send Atlanta Newspapers columnist, Colin Campbell, and cartoonist Mick Luckovich to Beijing at my expense in hopes they would second-guess the organizing committee there as they did Atlanta so I can watch them neck deep in a rice paddy when they do. I would pay double if Izzy, ACOG’s much-maligned mascot, were assigned to stand guard over them with an AK-47.

I doubt that China would welcome the involvement of Munson Steed, either. He is the genius that put Atlanta on the map with the renowned sidewalk vendors program that made television viewers around the world think they had tuned into a third-world flea market, not a world-class sporting event.

When I was a member of the 1996 Centennial Games staff, I thought we would have to extend the Olympics for six months in order to accommodate all of the special interest groups that fervently sought their 15 minutes of fame in the worldwide spotlight. You name ‘em, we had ‘em: Jesse Jackson (naturally), gays, feminists, Hispanics, pro-state flag supporters, anti-state flag supporters, environmentalists, animal rights activists, the list goes on and on. The protesters varied but not their tactics — trying to hold Olympic planners hostage by demonstrations, media manipulation, intimidation, and any other means necessary to get a piece of the action or face time on television.

Somehow I don’t believe these groups are going to have much luck in China, unless they desire some quality time with the Fulan Gong folks in the local pokey. I don’t think gays will threaten to throw buckets of water on the Olympic flame during the torch relay as they claimed they would in 1996 in order to elicit sympathy to their plight. I doubt the labor unions will try to close down Olympic construction in Beijing. Tree huggers will have about as much luck lassoing snail darters as influencing Chinese environmental policies. And don’t expect any conversation about changing the Chinese flag. Even Roy Barnes wouldn’t touch that one.

There will be several exciting new events in the Beijing Games. Pin the Tail on the Dissident will feature blindfolded contestants jabbing acupuncture needles in the backside of any citizen dumb enough to badmouth the government between now and 2008. Chinese Checkers will highlight the ability of border guards to make sure nobody leaves the country in order to badmouth the government between now and 2008. The Peking Duck competition will be limited to Chinese officials who will attempt to evade questions about China’s record on human rights, pollution, jailing of journalists, concentration camps and a host of other topics the locals don’t seem inclined to ask. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait.

Lost in the hubbub about Beijing’s selection is that the International Olympic Committee has a new president. Dr. Jacques Rogge, a Belgian orthopedic surgeon, will replace his Imperial Majesty Juan Antonio Samaranch who presided over the IOC for 21 years and was best known for declaring every Olympics as the “Best Games Ever”, except for the Atlanta Games which he called, “The Games With The Most Interesting Sidewalk Vendors Program.” Whether Dr. Rogge continues this tradition through the Salt Lake Winter Games (“The Best Games Ever In Utah”) and the 2004 Athens Games (“The Best Games Ever In Athens With The Exception Of

The 1968 Game When the Dawgs Kicked Tech’s Butts, 47-8”), remains to be seen.

Dr. Rogge hasn’t consulted me on what to do but if he asks, I would suggest waiting until after 2008 to change that policy. Otherwise, he may find himself in Tiananmen Square nose-to-nose with a cranky tank driver.