The Olympics are nearly here, again, and you know what that means, again.

People are saying they should be boycotted. Again.

The issue, this time, is China's human-rights violations, specifically in Tibet, where Tibetan freedom fighters were gunned down this month by Chinese soldiers in the most recent outburst over a land dispute that has been going on for more than half a century.

Pull the 2008 Games from Beijing, protesters chanted as the ceremonial torch run began in Olympia, Greece. Or at the very least do not support them.

As if that will save a single life or free Tibet or stop China from suppressing Falun Gong or end Chinese ties with brutal regimes in Sudan and Myanmar or cause the Chinese to renounce communism altogether.

Olympic boycotts have never accomplished anything of the sort. Mostly all they do is produce more boycotts. And take the fun and games out of something that was started, at least modernly, with the sole purpose of having fun and games.

Olympic history is full of boycotts and threatened boycotts. In the old days — the real old days — they finally got around the problem by implementing an Olympic truce. Nobody could fight anybody about anything until the Olympics were over.

Why the ancient Greeks didn't see the light and hold the Olympics year-round and stop war forever is anybody's guess. But they didn't and, like clockwork, the Games would eventually end and fighting would resume.

The mandated truce averted serious threats and boycotts to the Olympics for several hundred years until the Big Boycott of 393 A.D. when Theodosius the Great, emperor of Rome, canceled the ancient Olympics on the grounds that they were pagan.

Theodosius was a Christian; and Christianity, the new state religion of the Roman empire, prohibited anything that worshipped graven images and so forth.

No one could argue that the Olympics, with their temple to Zeus and unabashed adulation of Nike (some things never change), didn't worship the occasional graven image.

Theodosius not only boycotted the 393 Games but also ordered the dismantling of the temple to Zeus. His son, Theodosius II, continued the job when he demolished the stadium in Olympia, Greece.

Those actions effectively killed the Games for 1,503 years until they were revived in Greece in 1896 A.D.

And what did the layoff accomplish? Other than ushering in the Dark Ages and dashing the gold medal hopes and dreams of about 400 generations of athletes?

The upshot is that the revived Olympics are much-improved over the original. No longer are the Games a religious event. No longer is participation restricted to nude, Greek men. No longer are women spectators banned. And instead of 40,000 people being able to take off work and see them (that was the capacity of the stadium Theo II demolished in Olympia), 4 billion people can now tune in around the world.

The Olympic Games are about the only decent all-Earth party out there.

And they want to boycott that?

Zeus has got to be rolling over in his temple.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.