Should Russians be furious that Maria Sharapova will carry their national flag in the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics? She left the country at age 7, developed her skills at a tennis academy in Florida, lives in California and speaks English without an accent. Russians could take offense at being represented by an athlete largely made in America. But so far, they have had better sense.
We can't say the same for American politicians who have their compression shorts in a knot over the news that the U.S. athletes competing in London will march wearing berets and blazers made in China.
"You'd think they'd know better," fumed House Speaker John Boehner. "I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again," exclaimed Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
Really? The Olympics have endured as a singular effort to foster peace and understanding through competition and human interaction among different nationalities. For a couple of weeks, political disputes and ethnic hatreds are put aside.
But for promoting cooperation and bridging differences across borders, there is nothing to match trade -- which takes place every day, not once every leap year. Americans and Chinese have different languages, cultures and political systems, yet they manage to come together to buy, sell and invest for mutual benefit.
The U.S. Olympic Committee got the outfits from Ralph Lauren, which made them in China. That's not exactly unusual these days. In the last two decades, the American apparel industry has shrunk by 80 percent. That's because the physical production of shirts and skirts can be done at lower cost in other places.
It's folly to resist that reality. The entire world gets more prosperous when nations can sell what they're best at producing and buy what they're not.
And America gets its share of the business. As Cato Institute analyst Daniel Ikenson notes, "the Chinese athletes will have arrived in London by U.S.-made aircraft, been trained on U.S.-designed and -engineered equipment, wearing U.S.-designed and -engineered footwear, having perfected their skills using U.S.-created technology."
The Games, like international markets, are a truly global phenomenon that binds the people of the Earth together. They are no place for petty nationalism.