Its not the winning that counts

Im particularly upset about it because it kind of works as an endorsement of big money, no matter where its from, being able to buy anything, even a precious football victory, and then maybe endure less enquiries about its legitimacy.

I know I keep going on about former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra buying a major Mancunian institution, but even if its not technically illegal isnt a victory like yesterdays a bit soured by the knowledge that the man who paid for it also oversaw the escalation of civil war in southern Thailand, and a vicious war on drugs when thousands of people were killed without charge or trial?

This matter aside, usually I keep quiet among my family when football comes up, because despite being a Mancunian Im actually not that interested in the beautiful game. I much prefer heroic two-wheelers, true athletes who make 90-minute footballers look like wimps.

But its happening in cycling too big money and the desperation to win are destroying the credibility of road racing, now brought to its knees because of organised, systematic doping.

The most disgraceful revelation at this years Tour de France was when the Kazak favourite Vinokourov was found to have used testosterone to boost his performance. This man had become a huge hero in his home country. A whole professional cycling team, Astana, was built around him, sponsored by several state-owned Kazak companies, and some said it was just what the country needed after the international humiliation the film Borat had inflicted on national pride.

But there are dodgy politics behind sport again as the ruling party in Kazakhstan this weekend won all 98 Parliamentary seats in an election victory which the OSCE has cast doubt on. This victory follows the murder of a key opposition leader last year and serious concerns about freedom of assembly and fair trials within the country.

Again it seems that those with money and power will try to use sport and the commitment and loyalty it can inspire, to distract people from big human rights problems.

What will be the ultimate test of this tactic? The Beijing Olympics are now less than a year away. The International Olympic Committee required China to make commitments on improving human rights protection before it granted the country the Games, because the IOC knows people around the world will not enjoy watching sporting brilliance if it is taking place while ordinary people are having their basic human rights denied.

Its up to us to tell our governments and our athletes, the IOC and China that we wont celebrate an Olympics that only pays lipservice to human rights protection in China. Get involved here.

And one more thing

Amnesty's 15 August Stand Up For Freedom show was a sell-out success with Fringe favourite Ed Byrnes only Edinburgh show this year, plus Rhona Cameron, Andrew Maxwell, Stewart Lee, Craig Hill, Phil Nichol.

You can watch highlights on youtube or on Amnesty's site as part of a series of podcasts featuring exclusive interviews, sketches, backstage gossip and clips from The Secret Policemans Ball.

The last of Amnesty Internationals 2007 Stand Up For Freedom comedy shows takes place at Edinburgh's Assembly Hall on Wednesday 22 August, with a fantastic line-up including Frankie Boyle, Simon Amstell and Lucy Porter.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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