China's Winter Games On Thin Ice

China's Winter Games On Thin Ice

Calls for a boycott of the Winter Games to be held in Beijing are beginning to bear fruit. A diplomatic boycott will take the sheen off the prestigious sporting event.

tippinsights Editorial Board

The Winter Olympics is just a few short months away. As athletes buckle down and train harder for the Olympic gold, human rights organizations and lawmakers are ramping up the pressure to boycott the games.

What is irking many is the venue of the Winter Olympics – China.

Right from the torch lighting ceremony held at Olympia in Greece, protestors have been calling attention to the plight of the Uyghurs, China's oppression of Tibetans, and the country's atrocious human rights violations. Despite the U.S. and other countries recognizing the detention and repression of the ethnic population of Xinjiang, by China, as genocide, the country remains the chosen host for the prestigious competitions.

The fact gains significance in the light of events from 1993. Then China failed in its first attempt to host the mega sporting event. The NYT reported then, "Beijing's candidacy appears to have fallen victim to China's human rights record and arguments by Western politicians and human rights groups that a Government that continues to repress dissidents should not be rewarded with the honor of holding the 2000 Olympics."

Almost three decades later, Beijing's human rights record is worse. The country's aggressive actions threaten peace across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea. Those who believe allowing Beijing to host the Games would vindicate the country's actions want to "punish" China and call for a complete boycott.

It is safe to say there are grounds for such a demand. For, the 2020 Olympic Charter states: "The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

China is skating on thin ice. Recently, Peng Shuai, a Chinese professional tennis player, went missing a fortnight after making allegations of sexual assault against a former vice-premier of China on the social media platform Weibo. The international community, especially tennis players and the Women's Tennis Association, continues to demand news about the athlete.

Peng Shuai, Professional Chinese Tennis Player

Yet, the country is merrily banking on the pride and prestige hosting the Olympics presents. It is a time to bask in the world's attention, boost the economy, and raise the nation's profile. Beijing is counting on successfully completing the Games to rebrand its image after exporting a notorious pandemic from its shores.

The Games are already under the shadow of the pandemic. Though travel restrictions have eased considerably since the Summer Games in Tokyo, in 2020, outbreaks and infections are raging in many parts of the world. Reports of new clusters within China, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdowns periodically emerge, despite the highly censored media in the country.

The top thirteen sponsors have ignored the demand to boycott the Games, including multinational corporations like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Visa. For them, it is a numbers game, above all else. China is one of the world's largest markets and suppliers of goods; it would not do to get on the regime's wrong side.

However, powerful governments are taking note of the voices of the people. President Biden has openly said that the U.S. is considering a "diplomatic boycott." Unconfirmed reports suggest many others may follow suit.

A diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games would be a snub that China cannot overlook or wish away. It will be hard to cover up the absence of prominent world leaders and dignitaries at the much-viewed opening and closing ceremonies.

According to its website, the International Olympic Committee's vision is "to Build a Better World through Sport." More thought and deliberation must go into choosing who hosts and where the Games are held to do that.

Staying away from the world's most celebrated sporting event, without denying the athletes their chance to compete on the world stage, sends a strong message to China – there will be repercussions for its actions.


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