Jacques Rogge, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, tried to defend the decision to select Beijing as the Olympic host the other day. This is what he said — honest:

"It is very easy with hindsight to criticize the decision. It's easy to say now that this was not a wise and sound decision."

Hindsight? Who needs hindsight? It was easy to criticize this decision with foresight, and just a little insight. It was easy to say it was unwise when the decision was made seven years ago. It was easy for fellow columnist Lee Benson to write, on July 30, 2001:

"The Olympics should never be awarded to any place where: They shoot you if you disagree with the government. They shoot planes out of their airspace. They ban books. People aren't free to travel without restrictions. They kidnapped Tibet. ... The Beijing Games will be about as laid back as Al Gore's legal team."

Beijing looked like a bad idea from the start. They could have chosen Paris, where the worst problem would be a snobby waiter or two. They could have chosen Toronto, Canada, a country that already knows both official Olympic languages. They could have chosen Osaka, which hasn't stolen anybody's country since Pearl Harbor.

How did Beijing beat out those guys?

Anyone with a few brain cells could have seen this coming, which explains how the IOC made this decision under the leadership of the grand imperial Poohbah Antonio Samaranch, who made Beijing his parting gift (shot?) to the world days before retiring. (He openly supported Beijing's bid before the vote.)

Thanks for nothing, Tony.

The Games are still months away, and already they're about as fun as a picnic in Baghdad. The traditional torch relay to the Olympic site — dubbed the "Journey of Harmony" — has turned into a game of hide and seek to avoid confrontations and disruptions. The torch is being escorted by Chinese soldiers — or "thugs," as Britain's former Olympic champ Sebastian Coe calls them.

There are threats of boycotts, of the Opening Ceremonies and the Games themselves. Politicians debate the issue daily.

China has because a flashpoint for Darfur and Tibet and human rights. The torch has produced thousands of Richard Geres.

Rogge has felt compelled to reaffirm the right of free speech for athletes in Beijing.

There is a war of words going back and forth between China and the IOC and various nations and causes around the world.

The Olympics are in disarray, and this is just the warm-up act. Protests and criticism are putting a dark cloud over the Olympics — although the cloud could be partly attributable to air pollution, which is so gritty and thick that you can chew it. Rogge says some events might have to be delayed because of the pollution, depending on weather conditions.

"But for every effort under one hour there is no problem, no danger," said Rogge.

Those marathoners better run fast.

Tell us again why they chose China?

Rogge himself says of the Beijing Games, "It's a crisis, no doubt about that."

Oh, for the good old days of the Salt Lake Olympics when all they had to worry about was a bid scandal.

The IOC had to see all this coming. China's human rights record isn't exactly news — Darfur, Tibet, Tiananmen Square, pollution. They have newspapers in Geneva, don't they?

Why would the IOC give the Games to any communist nation? You can't have communism without human rights abuses. The Olympic track record — pardon the pun — with communist countries should have been warning enough.

The last time they gave the Games to a communist nation, it was a disaster, ruining not one but two Summer Olympics. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games to protest Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. The Carter administration twisted enough arms to convince some 60 nations to join the boycott. The Games went on and everyone in Russia won a medal.

That led to the boycott of the L.A. Olympics four years later, when the Russians exacted their revenge for the '80 boycott by forming a boycott of their own. It turned into an American intrasquad meet.

What were the old boys at the IOC thinking when they recalled the last Olympics in a communist nation? Well, that went pretty well, didn't it.

So they did it again, and now no less than Rogge is calling it a mistake and a crisis. Someone better tell Samaranch. As recently as last year, he was repeating his 2001 mantra — "I would like to repeat I am sure that the Olympic Games in Beijing will be the best in Olympic history."

Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Please e-mail [email protected]