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Axe the boycott, be there, be heard.

I'm not a supporter of sporting boycotts in most cases. The exceptions can be distilled down to two types. One, where discrimination and exclusion is inherently carried out by the host sporting body (eg. apartheid-era South Africa). And two, where the host nation is in such a repressed, run-down state that playing international sport in those surrounds would be grossly immoral (eg. Zimbabwe, North Korea).

Boycotts of the Olympic Games are almost as old as the modern Olympics themselves. Think of Irish athletes refusing to compete in the first London Games and you realise that 2008 is the centennial year of the Olympic boycott.

It was Moscow 1980 when the Olympic boycott became a mainstream political tool, when Jimmy Carter's USA pulled out after the USSR invaded Afghanistan. What we now know is that the same Jimmy Carter signed an executive order in 1979 enabling the CIA to help the Mujihadin provoke the Soviet Union into invading.

Yes, the Americans were in Afghanistan six months before the Russians in 1979, even if they were the friendly ones and were there to train the freedom fighters of the future such as Osama bin Laden. And they were affronted at the USSR-led tit-for-tat boycott of Los Angeles 1984.

No, we should, however reluctantly, go ahead with sending our athletes to the Beijing Olympics this August. We knew in 2001 that the 29th Games were being handed to a country with a, to say the least, dubious track record in human rights, hoping somewhat irrationally that the magic wand would be waved over China in the seven years hence.

It hasn't. The recent suppression of protests in Tibet is merely a drop in the ocean when seen in the wider context of China's human rights record. The Falun Gong, the Uighurs, the internet cafes, the fantasy-world denial of Taiwan's independence, all stains on the reputation of the "People's" Republic of China, even if there are no more Long Marches, Great Leaps Forward, or Cultural Revolutions.

But we knew this in 2001. And the IOC went ahead and awarded the 2008 Games to Beijing. So we have to live with it. Live it with, but not with silent acquiescence.

Go to Beijing, compete, speak freely, observe, complain where necessary, protest wherever possible. But watch the opening and closing ceremonies, not from the stadium but on television.