I have always insisted that I will not watch one second of the upcoming Communist Olympiad - and I still won't see any of it. I have always considered awarding the Games to the Communists to be a mistake - and I still do. That said, I have already seen at least one possible upside to the Games (after they are over), and another one may be popping up in the most unexpected of areas: basketball.
For much of the world (and nearly all American watchers), basketball will be the marquis event of the Games. Several nations (host included) have NBA players on their squads. Odds are the cadres were more than happy with this, since the NBA has been one of the major "engagement" proponents, but that was before anyone heard of Ira Newble.
Newble, a former Cleveland Cavalier reserve who is now a reserve for the Western Conference Champion L.A. Lakers, has been using his position to bring attention to Communist China's complicity in the Darfur outrage (Boston Globe via Boycott 2008). He may even be willing to take his case to the host site itself, although as he noted, "Security might be an issue because China really doesn't look at this too kindly. They are already fabricating stories over there about me."
Normally, this would just be another story of an anti-Communist shoved to the margins or silenced. The cadres have been hard at work doing that for sometime - in China proper (Between Heaven and Earth), occupied East Turkestan (BBC, BBC again, and the Washington Times), and as far away as New York City (The Epoch Times). This time, however, Newble has managed to get Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher to sign on. Bryant is one of the faces of the NBA, while Fisher, although less known to the population at large, is a vital role player who is well known and respected throughout the league. More importantly, Bryant is a stone-cold, lead-pipe lock to make the Olympic team.
Now, the regime has been leaning very hard on their "guests" to keep quiet about its abuses against its own people and its role in propping up other brutal tyrants (such as the Sudan or, say, North Korea - BBC), but track-and-field athletes getting their one moment in the sun are much easier to intimidate than an NBA star.
What would the cadres do if Kobe decides to speak out? They'll surely have the usual engagement crowd (the Toronto Star has a perfect example of what these idiots are likely to say about Kobe), and Kobe has his critics here at home (although Newble also has a Celtic supporter on this, so relying on rivalries within the league probably won't help the cadres much). However, going after Kobe will be an eye-opener not only to him, but to his millions of fans in Los Angeles and across the country. One of the most apolitical areas in America - professional sports - could become an accidental anti-Communist recruiting ground overnight.
If, by contrast, the Communists keep silent, then Kobe's criticism still becomes front-page news, and the Chinese people will wonder why he was allowed to speak in such a manner. The resulting logic train from that will all but ensure the regime will come down hard on Kobe. I don't expect the Laker star to be detained or imprisoned, but the Communist media will likely rip him in ways that would make a Sacramento Kings fan blush. Once again, though, the Pandora's box I described above would still be opened.
The question is, will Kobe criticize the regime during the Games? I don't know. I do know that this is one variable the cadres (and, truth be told, I) didn't consider. Are there other variables out there that could combine with the likely post-Olympic corruption scandals? Only time will tell.