WHEN Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games voices were heard that China should not be given this honour because of its poor human rights record. Those in favour of the Games going to Beijing, among whom I was one, argued that participation in one of the most important of all international events would inevitably open China to the world and its influences in a way that nothing else, not even its expanding trade role, could do. I still hold that view. Steven Spielberg's very public decision to withdraw from his role as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics at this very late stage, because China has not sufficiently used its influence on Sudan in Darfur, may seem to support the view of those who didn't want the Olympics in Beijing in the first place.

Clearly there will be more personal and collective protests of this kind as the Olympics draws near. The list of targets is long, including Tibet, Burma, the death sentence, censorship, repressive policies towards free thinkers, and so on. Perhaps, though, it is worth asking whether it is reasonable to expect China to change into a perfect model of a Western style-democratic society in a few years because of the Olympics. It may also be worth considering whether the Olympics will survive if in future the host country is subjected to protests and boycotts for its policies. I am sure there are already people preparing their interventions for London in 2012.