An Olympic Controversy


Ethan Fletcher and Ben Schwartz, Staff Reporters

On Dec. 1, 2021, the United States, along with Canada, Britain, Australia and Japan, announced diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games due to the accusations surrounding China. These boycotts all come in response to China’s human rights abuse in Xinjiang against the Muslim population. 

The accusations surrounding the games are based on “genocide and crimes against hummanity” Jen Psaki of the White House Press Secretary cited. This follows the Chinese government’s cracked down on Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the region, including mass detentions and forced use of contraception and sterilizations. On top of this, an Olympic Boycott was proposed after Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player, accused a former top government officially of sexually assaulting her. These accusionations and any references of them were quickly wiped from the internet in China and she immediately disappeared from public view creating a controversy in itself on what happened.

With a diplomatic boycott, the United States will choose not to send country officials to the games while athletes are allowed to participate like normal. Rather than cause significant damage to the games, diplomatic boycotts are meant to send a message regarding the controversy.

In the United States, there has been much support surrounding the Biden Administration’s decision to impose a diplomatic boycott, with some arguing for a full boycott. Results from a survey from Pew Research show that 46% of adults approve of the diplomatic boycott, 22% disapprove, and 31% are unsure.  The survey also found that “about nine-in-ten U.S. adults (91%) say they have heard little (46%) or nothing at all (45%) about” the boycott of the Olympics. 

France, however, are deciding against a boycott, with the President stating “I don’t think we should politicize these topics, especially if it is to take steps that are insignificant and symbolic.” 

This isn’t the first time accusations have been made about the hosts of the games. Back in 2014, the United States, along side Germany and France, skipped the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi due to Russia’s views on gay rights for the second time after the games were Boycotted in 1980 due to the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Ever in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, where poor families were forced out of their homes to make way for the Olympic venues. In recent Olympic Games, human rights are often all ignored or swept under the rug because of money and power. Countries can diplomatically oppose the Olympics but that hasn’t brought about real change. 

Every time the olympics are held thousands of jobs are created which can help out a local economy this was the case in both Greece in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 for the summer olympics. Manpower is required from every country as well as diplomats and employees from every country also come over to the host country. These things create revenue and stability but often a diplomatic boycott can interrupt these customs. It can hurt the process and the viewing experience hurting the product and thus make the host country lose revenue. 

Transforming the game’s controversial politics could however have a negative outcome for the United States. China’s Council on Foreign Relations talks of the suspension of bilateral exchanges and participation in global talks along with leveraging their vast consumer market to individual companies who boycott the games.

China, in response to the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and Japans’ decisions to boycott the games, denies all allegations against them, even going as far as to warn the most vocal activists, the United States, not to politicize the games and not to interfere with their internal affairs. China’s foreighn ministry also added that the United States has violated the Olympic Games spirit and it will pay a price for it. 

Chinese Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a news conference that “[The US] shot itself in the foot” and that “the US should understand the grave consequences of [their] move.”

Many families sit down and watch the games every year they come on. However, this may have changed due to the controversy surrounding them and students’ and families’ opinions regarding the allegations.

“Very few of the Olympics in recent years have been held with any regard for human rights or anything of the like,” said senior Ray Evans. “If you remember the Rio Olympics in 2016, where they had large scale clearings, or they’re forcing out people in order to make space for fancy hotels – It’s not any worse than any other Olympics that’s been held in recent years” 

This example from the Olympics can teach students the importance of public image and the importance of advertising for events to make the most out of them. 

“Since the Olympics are very economy heavy, not spending money and sending officials there sends a political message to everybody who’s watching and brings attention to the issue,” says senior Ella Blaney.

The support surrounding the games is similar to many Sequoia events in which events such as pep rallies and fundraisers cost more money but bring bigger crowds and audiences to the school. When there are restrictions put on these types of events such as with the boycotting of the olympics, the events can often be less popular or impactful. 

Whether US athletes should attend the games has sparked arguments across the country. Many argue that disallowing the athletes to compete would impose a larger blow to the games with the complete absence of the United States. Students don’t feel compelled for the government to decide their participation in the winter games.

“Whether the athletes want to compete is their personal choice and that’s up to them,” Junior Ethan Bae said.

If you are interested in watching the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, they can be found on the NBC network as well on the popular streaming network, Peacock.