The Olympics are appropriately referred to as “games.”

What is happening in Tibet is no game.

The Chinese government, which is preparing to host the Olympics this summer in Beijing, is brutally attacking the people of Tibet in order to put down a legitimate struggle for basic human rights.

The pressure that the world can place on China to stop the killing and what can only be described as cultural genocide begins with a message that the games of the Olympics are not as important as the real-life struggles of the Tibetan people.

That message is beginning to be sent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has become the first world leader to refuse to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

Hans-Gert Pöttering, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic party who chairs the European parliament, has stoked discussion of a broader Olympic boycott, saying, “I cannot imagine German politicians attending the opening or closing ceremonies [if the Tibetan crackdown continues].”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated that he may join Merkel in saying to the Chinese — who see the Olympics as a marketing tool of immense importance to their country’s economic and political emergence — that what is being done to Tibet stains the name not just of China but of any country that would play with it the public relations game that the Olympics have become.

Other leaders are opting out of the pageant in Beijing, as well.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, who had previously arranged to be at the Olympics, has announced that he will not attend.

Already, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has announced his decision to boycott the games, saying that, “The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate. I do not intend to take part.”

What of American “leaders”? President Bush has shown little serious concern for the Tibet, and much sympathy with the Chinese. That is to be expected of a man for whom morality has always taken a backseat to political gamesmanship.

But what of those who would be president?

What say John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

To be sure, that trio is likely be busy this summer. But would they, if they sat in the White House, play China’s Olympic game? Or would they recognize, as Merkel and others have, that there are more serious issues in play this year?